Skip to content

Painting class

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 many learners over 60 in Northern Ireland - 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.

Libraries NI

Libraires NI regularly runs computer training classes providing jargon-free training tailored to people in later life. If you’d like to learn more about computers and the internet.

Find out more (

Queen's University Open Learning

Queen's University Open Learning short courses are open to all adults, regardless of age or qualifications, whether for career development, personal growth or simply to satisfy a love for learning. From languages to creative writing and from music to wine tasting, be inspired and find your perfect Open Learning course.

Find out more (

Stranmillis Lifelong Learning Programme

Stranmillis University College offer recreational courses and day trips designed to motivate and inspire you. Classes are friendly, welcoming and supportive and tutors will make your experience both enjoyable and stimulating. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Whatever your particular enthusiasm, Stranmillis has a course for you at a time to suit your busy schedule.

Find out more (

Further Education Colleges

Colleges offer a range of full-time and part-time education and training options from entry level to post-graduate. Visit the links below to find out more information.

Belfast Met

Northern Regional College

North West Regional College

South East Regional College 

Southern Regional College 

South West College 

More Courses

Hotcourses - search a huge range of courses, from short courses to postgraduate study, many with reviews from students.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Open University - high-quality distance learning for all, join millions of students who have already begun their life-changing journey.

Queen's University - ranked 26 in the UK, Queen’s enjoys a reputation as Ireland’s Oxbridge (Sunday Times University Guide 2013).

University of Ulster - courses are often delivered through blended learning - where teaching is delivered partly online and partly on campus.

Access courses 

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.

Further information

Related topics

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575

Was this helpful?