New support for mature students in Cornwall to support their moves to university and jobs

Mature students in Cornwall returning to study are receiving extra support to help them make the move to university and careers.

The expanded Mature Access Pathway, now offered at Truro and Penwith College, is helping to break down barriers to learning and widen participation in higher education.

It allows students to experience what university life is like and polish their study skills through workshops, talks, and on-campus activities. The support is also offered at Exeter College.

The specialist information and advice is provided by experts from the University of Exeter and the college.

Mature students have access to University of Exeter academic staff, mentors, and current undergraduate students to help them get the right information, advice, and guidance they need to make an informed decision about their future.

They take part in face-to-face sessions at college and the University of Exeter where they get advice on applying for university, study skills such as reading, note-making and paraphrasing, researching, academic honesty and referencing, academic writing skills and higher education assessment.

The course was set up after University of Exeter analysis showed mature students can lack confidence in applying to higher education and often prefer to study for a degree locally. The review showed the need for mature students to meet those in the same situation and to get targeted information about finances and life as an undergraduate.

The Mature Access Pathway, which was launched in Truro and Penwith College this academic year and Exeter College last year, includes social events and advice about money and living matters. It also includes help on how to choose the right course. It forms part of the timetable of all Access to Higher Education students.

Truro and Penwith student Liam, taking a science access course, returned to studying after working as a brewer. He has a place to study Sustainable Energy Futures at the University of Exeter’s Penryn campus.

Liam said: “The support for writing essays and how to revise for exams has been really good. It’s the learning how to learn. When I came back to learning that was the biggest challenge. I thought ‘I don’t think I’m going to be very good at this’. I think I was smart at school, I was near top sets but I didn’t apply myself at all. So when I went back I thought maybe I won’t be able to do anything, I won’t know how to learn but there has been a lot of support. They’re teaching us how to learn.     

“Overall, the experience has been really useful. It was really good to go to the University of Exeter’s Streatham campus and really useful talking to students

“I chose the Sustainable Energy course because I’d heard that a lot of people who go to university struggle to get jobs with their degrees so I wanted to pick something that would likely lead me to a job. I wanted to do something that is important at the moment and a safe industry to get into. This course sounds good because it has a practical part to it which I like, like the science-engineering bit but it also has a policy element so I feel like there’s a lot of different directions it could take me.”  

Marni previously studied at Truro and Penwith College and has returned to complete the science access course. She hopes to study law with criminology. She said: “I did the rebellious teenage years and then found myself again and wanted to get back into education. I thought science would be good for me and was really interested in that and decided this was the career path that I wanted to go down. I knew that if I wanted to go down that path then I needed to do certain things to get there and Access is a really good way to go about that. You get it done quickly and it prepares you, you’ve got a good support system but you’re expected to do things yourself like you would be at uni and you are guided to make sure you do those things in the way that you need to.”  

Basil, also on the science access course, hopes to study medical imaging. He said: “We went for a MAP event at Streatham and St Luke’s campus. We went to the medical imaging department which was great. I was quite impressed with how they do things. We even got to do a sonograph which was really exciting. That motivated me to do my best and apply. I received an offer for an interview at Exeter which I have now done and so I’m waiting for their reply. Overall it has been really helpful.”

Rey, on the access to medicine pathway, previously had to drop out of A-levels for health reasons. She now has offers to study medicine.

Rey said: “I thought that was the end of my aspirations to become a physician, something I’d always wanted to do. Then I found out about Access courses and I love being back in education. I definitely think I try a lot harder now I’m an adult. Being an adult, having that life experience, coming back into education is so much more rewarding to me. I feel like I’m going to do a lot better than I would have done even if things had gone perfectly during my A-levels.  

“I think I’m a lot better at dealing with academic stress now and because I can handle the Access course, I can take on anything. 

“I know studying medicine is going to be difficult but feel more confident than I think I would have felt coming straight out of A-levels. I think an Access course prepares you for the level of independence you’re going to have to have – planning your own time, not being checked up on hugely, and getting the same level of academic feedback as you would at university.  

“I help care for my disabled parents, so it’s a lot of hard work managing everything but my tutors on the Access course have been very understanding about it and have supported me.” 

Jolene Hogan, Access to HE Coordinator at Truro and Penwith College, said: “We are committed to widening participation, breaking down barriers to learning, creating better outcomes for students, and having a meaningful impact on social mobility.

“The Mature Access Pathway demonstrates the University of Exeter’s commitment to inclusivity and creating equality of opportunity for all. Our Access students found the workshops to be a valuable source of information and they now feel more confident and less apprehensive about progressing to university. They also have a better understanding of the financial and learning support that is available. I would highly recommend taking part in the campus visit, our students really enjoyed the academic lectures and can’t wait to get to university.”

Last year, 20 mature students progressed from Exeter College to the University of Exeter. So far this year 17 from Truro and Penwith College and 41 from Exeter College who took part in the Mature Access Pathway and applied to the University of Exeter have been given a guaranteed contextual level offer. Mature students at the University of Exeter get extra support, including an enhanced induction programme and access to mentors.

Pete Offord, University of Exeter School and College Engagement Officer, said: “Our aim has been to increase progression to university from mature students in Cornwall. We provide support and information to support them to progress to many institutions and courses, not just the University of Exeter.

“It’s been wonderful to see how the Mature Access Pathway gives people the confidence, knowledge and support to go on to higher education.”