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Princess Royal hears about drop in mature students at Stratford conference

PUBLISHED: 17:44 18 February 2014 | UPDATED: 17:46 18 February 2014

Princess Anne attends a seminar for mature students at the Stratford campus of University of East London.

Princess Anne attends a seminar for mature students at the Stratford campus of University of East London.

Archant

Princess Anne today met students at a conference which raised concerns about the drop in mature students entering higher education.

At the event a leading expert in Higher Education from the University of East London warned that the virtual collapse in the number of mature student applications will continue unless urgent action is taken.

Professor John Storan is director of the Continuum Research Centre, based at the UEL, which is leading research into the impact of the decline on disadvantaged groups. He said: “Despite our efforts we’re facing a virtual collapse of applications from mature students. My biggest fear is that institutions will play safe focusing on traditional younger students rather than being more flexible and attracting mature students. This means one huge group won’t be able to enrich their lives or contribute effectively to the country. It’s a massive waste.”

The conference, which was held at University Square Stratford, also heard from Frank Harris who is studying criminology at UEL after spending the last 30 years in and out of jail. He said: “I began studying in prison, and after gaining GCSE English and Maths, felt confident enough to take two counselling courses. I want to help people because I have been helped so many times. My learning at UEL has empowered me and given me the belief that my future is in my hands.”

Professor John Joughin, UEL’s vice chancellor, said: “I’m very concerned by the drop in numbers nationally. At UEL we are doing all we can to recruit, encourage and support our mature students. We want to widen participation from groups which are often ignored. Mature students add to the richness of all universities, and their participation in Higher Education can be life-changing, is vital for social mobility and provides the advanced skills desperately needed by UK business and industry.”

Despite the effort of individual institutions and ability to get student loans, there has been a rapid decline in applications from 21 to 65 year olds. Over the past two years there has been a drop of at least 40%, according to Universities UK report on part-time HE.

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