Contributing to an Evidence Base for the Enhancement of the Experiences and Outcomes of Mature Students at an Irish University

Contributing to an Evidence Base for the Enhancement of the Experiences and Outcomes of Mature Students at an Irish University

Emma Murphy (Dublin City University (DCU), Ireland), Yurgos Politis (University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland) and Maria Slowey (Dublin City University (DCU), Ireland)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7244-4.ch010
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Abstract

This chapter explores current patterns of participation and progression by mature students in undergraduate (Bachelors) programmes in an Irish university. The study was conducted by HERC (Higher Education Research Centre) in collaboration with an Institutional Analysis and Research Office with input from an expert Advisory Group. Based on the suggestions and experiences of students and staff, and informed by good practice examples from literature, a series of recommendations are proposed, aimed at enhancing experiences and successful outcomes of mature students in the future.
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Introduction

Ireland has a binary higher education system comprising seven universities and thirteen institutes of technology (IoTs)-all publicly funded. The full-time undergraduate student population is 70,090 in the Universities and 62,376 in the IoTs. Universities have a majority of female students (53%) while the IoTs enrole a majority of male students (56%) (HEA, 2013). In addition, there are colleges of education and a number of specialist colleges and a small number of private higher education institutions. Universities in Ireland are relatively small by international standards, ranging from approximately 24,000 students in the largest to approximately 9,500 students in the smallest. In 2014, the Irish university involved in the study described in this chapter had around 12,000 registered students. There has been a substantial growth in the higher education sector in Ireland which is exemplified by the fact that in 1965 there were approximately 19,000 full‐time students in the sector and by 2013 this has risen to approximately 165,000 (HEA website/ Statistics 2013).

Despite a strategic priority to increase the number of mature students1**in higher education in Ireland (HEA, 2008), the number of students over the age of 23 participating in higher education remains relatively low (HEA, 2012, 2013). With a view to improving participation rates and enhancing outcomes for mature students, an exploratory study was conducted with students at one Irish university (referred to from here as IUX – abbreviation of Irish University X). In IUX, mature students enter programmes across the university through a variety of routes. While they are widely recognized as constituting a valuable part of the student community, little was known about their profile, their patterns of participation across the university, and, importantly, what factors appear to shape successful outcomes. This study is an exploration of current patterns of mature students’ participation and experiences in programmes across IUX. Based on the suggestions and experiences of student participants, and informed by relevant literature, a series of recommendations aimed at enhancing the experiences and successful outcomes of mature students have been developed. Before presenting the results of the consultation with mature students at IUX we provide a brief overview of literature related to the experiences of mature students and their profiles, and where available, with particular reference to an Irish context.

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