Universities must offer courses for over-50s in the face of an ageing population, says a Universities UK report.
“The ageing of the population offers higher education institutions a serious challenge. The 21st century will require societies to find novel ways of managing ageing populations,” says the Active Ageing and Universities report.
It suggests universities set up centres in areas with a high proportion of over 50s, and develop courses “that support new forms of civic engagement in later life” — including environmental citizenship and human rights law.
The number of first-year part-time students aged over 40 leapt from 92,000 in 1997/98 to 158,000 in 2007/08.
The UK’s population of over 65s has slowly risen over the past 30 years, and they are expected to make up 20% of the population in 2026.
The report says that one barrier for older learners is perceptions by them and educational institutions. “Attitudinal barriers reflect perceptions…about their lack of ability, motivation and interest in gaining new knowledge,” it says.
A spokesperson for the University of Lincoln said: “The university has a positive and proactive approach to mature student provision and recruitment. A Mature Student Working Group has been organised to consider a range of initiatives, including ways to ease mature students’ transition back into education through the Getting Started Programme and the production of a Mature Student Guide.
The group will also seek to analyse the university recruitment and student data with a view to determining which programmes currently have the most mature students, as well as considering recruitment activities directed at mature students.”