Universities open to older people
Published on 21 February 2013 11:30 AM
Older people who want to continue working beyond the official retirement age should consider going to university, the minister for higher education has suggested.
David Willetts claims there is 'great value' in lifelong learning, insisting it is never too late to live the student life.
'There is certainly a pressure for continuing to get retrained and upskilled,' he told reporters as he travelled with Prime Minister David Cameron in India.
'Higher education has an economic benefit in that if you stay up-to-date with knowledge and skills, you are more employable,' he added.
Student fee loans available to older people
Official figures show there is still a low representation of older people attending university, although it is hoped the removal of an age restriction on fee loans could spark a surge in numbers.
Student loans used to be restricted to people under the age of 54, but now the government permits students of any age to take out loans to cover fees. However, loans to cover living costs are still restricted to the under-60s.
A total of 552,240 undergraduates started courses in the UK last year, of which only 1,940 were older than 60.
The figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency also showed that some 6,455 were aged between 50 and 60.
'There is evidence that the idea that you first study and then stop isn't what the world is like any more,' added Mr Willetts. 'If people can benefit from it, they should have that opportunity.'
An attractive prospect?
As it stands, tuition fees in England are capped at a maximum of £9,000 per year and students begin repayments when they start earning £21,000. But as the majority of older people have an income of less than £16,000, they would never have to repay their loans - making the prospect of university even more attractive.
Simon Ross, the chief executive of Population Matters, spoke last year in the House of Lords about the effect of an ageing population on public policy.
He said that as times change, people should be expected and enabled to work later in life, calling on employers and the government to help make this a reality.
Age UK's Charity Director General, Michelle Mitchell commented, 'With the rise in State Pension age meaning many people will have to work longer before retiring, it's important that older workers have access to good quality training in order to remain active in the labour market. Opportunities to enhance existing skills and develop new ones can only be a plus in the current tight job market where growing numbers of older people want and need to work.
'But training doesn't only need to happen in universities or colleges. Apprenticeships and on-site training can be just as valuable. This kind of reskilling will be increasingly important for older workers and it is imperative that the Government does more to encourage employers and individuals to take part.'
Copyright Press Association 2013