Education is a great way to improve your skills for work, learn about something you’re interested in, meet new people or have an active retirement.
Many people think continuing education can improve physical and mental heath too.
Retirement is a good time to start doing something you always wanted to do but never had the time for. From informal learning to languages and degree courses there’s something to interest everyone.
Am I too old?
Age discrimination is unlawful in education and lifelong learning is part of Government policy.
There are now more than 600,000 learners over 60 in England alone. You are never too old to learn!
Evening classes and more
Classes are no longer confined to evenings – there are part-time, day, weekend, online and distance learning classes to choose from.
Many take place in schools and colleges. Popular classes include languages, photography, yoga, cookery, computer skills, jewellery making and family history.
How to find a course
- The Hotcourses website allows you to search a huge range of courses, from short courses to postgraduate study, many with reviews from students.
- Floodlight is the official guide to courses in London and covers courses at all levels.
- The Directgov National Career Service page has information about mainly career-focussed courses.
- Local libraries have details of local courses and computer facilities if you need them for the course.
- Your local council education office will provide adult education and can provide details of local colleges. You can find them in the phone book.
- Age UK coordinates a network of computer training centres providing jargon-free training tailored to people in later life. If you’d like to learn more about computers and the internet see our computer training courses.
- The National Extension College specialises in distance learning with over 150 home-study courses including vocational and GCSE and A level courses. Telephone: 0800 389 2839.
- Open College of the Arts, who say their oldest student is 92, offer home study courses in fine art, photography, creative writing, textiles, art history, music etc. Telephone: 0800 731 2116.
- The Workers' Educational Association are committed to widening participation and to enabling people to realise their full potential through learning. They run over 10,000 courses in local centres all across the UK. Telephone: 020 7375 3092.
- Learn Direct has a network of local centres offering computer-based teaching. Their courses are mainly vocational skills, English, maths and business. To enquire about courses call 0800 101 901 (0808 100 9000 if you live in Scotland).
- The University of the Third Age (U3A) consists of local groups of older people (in their ‘third age’) whose members run informal courses, study groups and talks. They also run centralised tutored and untutored online courses. For details, write to: University of the Third Age, 19 East Street, Bromley, BR1 1QH. Telephone: 020 8466 6139
- The BBC's online language courses are free and cover French, Italian, Spanish and German.
Higher education and university
The majority of universities and colleges welcome mature students for their committment, experience and skills.
When it comes to entry requirements, many have a flexible admissions policy which takes into account work and life experience.
As entry requirements vary so much, it is a good idea to get in touch with the admissions tutors for the courses in which you are interested. It could be worth meeting them to discuss your situation and the options before making an application.
If evidence of recent study is required, you may need to take an access course (see below).
To ease the transition back into education and help you settle in, universities and colleges often have orientation programmes tailored for mature students.
UCAS guide for mature students is a thorough guide for those considering higher education.
Access to higher eduction courses teach the knowledge and skills that you will need for a degree or diploma course. They are run by local colleges, usually as evening classes.
There are over 1,500 access courses listed at the Access to HE website.
Funding and grants for over 60s
Studying doesn’t have to be expensive either. There may be concessions for older people – make sure you ask. Many institutions allow distance learning so you can continue to live in your home.
DirectGov's student finance site provides information on the financial help available to students in higher education in England. They also link to information about finance in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Finding a course
- The Complete University Guide provides a wealth of information on universities and courses.
- The Hotcourses website allows you to search a huge range of higher education courses, many with reviews from students.
- Floodlight is the official guide to courses in London covering courses at all levels.
- UCAS process all the university applications and also have a course search at the UCAS website.
- Pioneers of home study, the Open University have been proudly proclaiming their lack of an upper age limit and lack of formal entry requirements for longer than anyone else. 3% of their students are over 65 with 6% aged 55 to 64. Visit the Open University website or contact them at: The Open University, PO Box 197, Milton Keynes, MK7 6BJ. Telephone: 0845 300 6090
- Open College of the Arts, who say their oldest student is 92, offer home study courses in fine art, photography, creative writing, textiles, art history, music etc. Courses can be taken individually or combined to make a degree qualification.