Too Focused to Think: The Mature Students' Dilemma

By Catherine Minett-Smith and Heather Clay.

Published by The International Journal of Adult, Community and Professional Learning

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This paper consider the results of a pilot study that explored the learning experiences of mature students within a Higher Education Business School context, considering the impact that an interruption to study had on their learning experience and integration into University life. We argue that the increasing diversity in the student body and financial pressures on all students is, to some extent, challenging the previously assumed distinctions between mature students and their younger peers. Mature students’ experience of Higher Education is determined by their motivation to study, their expectations before arrival and their desire to have their varied life experiences acknowledged. This together with a goal-orientated approach can create tensions for them, their peers and the University. Compartmentalisation of time results in them having a focussed approach, restricting their ability to think creatively and enjoy the educational experience. These factors have implications in terms of how we structure the academic provision and support.

Keywords: Mature, Focus, Diversity, Socialisation, Experience, Group Work

The International Journal of Adult, Community and Professional Learning, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp.23-32. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 395.530KB).

Dr. Catherine Minett-Smith

Head of Learning Enhancement, Business School, Middlesex University, London, Hendon, UK

Dr Catherine Minett-Smith is Associate Dean Student Experience in the Business School at the University of Bedfordshire where she is responsible for developing and enhancing all aspects of the student experience. Catherine’s first degree was a BSc in Statistics from Aberystwyth University and this was followed by a PhD in Statistics. After working in Vancouver for a few years she returned to the UK and worked at Middlesex University where she was a senior teaching fellow and Head of Learning Enhancement in the Business School. Catherine is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and has extensive teaching experience in Higher Education.

Dr. Heather Clay

Deputy Dean, Business School, Middlesex University, Hendon, London, UK

Dr. Heather Clay is Deputy Dean at Middlesex University Business School. She is responsible for the development of academic provision within the Business School and developing new collabrative links in the UK and overseas. Heather's first degree is an LLB from London University and this was followed by an MA in higher and professional education from the Institute of Education. She subsequently completed a DProf in higher education management which focussed on the globalisation of higher education and off-shore delivery of UK education. Heather is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.