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"It's never too late to live your dream" Mature learners thriving at Bradford


Adult Nursing student

At the University of Bradford, students of any age are welcomed. Two courses which often attract mature learners are BSc (Hons) Nursing (Adult) and BA (Hons) Social Work. 

The average age for entry to Adult Nursing is 27, with more than a third of students being over 30, according to data for the academic year 2022/2023. For Social Work, the average age on entry is 28, with 38 per cent over 30. 

Laura Smith, main image and below, started on the BSc (hons) Nursing (Adult) in September 2021, aged 37, after working in a café for 21 years. 

She said: “When the children were little, it was quite difficult to think about a nursing career. There were childcare costs that needed paying and I couldn’t think about night shifts while looking after my three young kids. 

“It was only in 2020, when the pandemic happened and my work at a local café stopped, that I got the push I needed to pursue my dream of becoming a nurse.”

Laura enrolled in a year-long Access to Health Professions course at Keighley College, West Yorkshire, during which she also completed her Maths and English GCSE. At the same time, she worked as a care assistant in a care home in Keighley. After finishing the college course, she enrolled on her degree course at the University of Bradford. 

She added: “I got a lot of support from the recruitment and adult learner teams at the University. My first placement at Airedale Hospital lasted eight weeks, where I took on a healthcare support worker role, helping with things like personal care and assisted feeding. Then I got to do more nursing jobs like observations and injections. You get to do two long placements like this every year on the course.”

Adult nursing

Students on the BSc Nursing are eligible to apply for grants of between £5,000 and £8,000 per year. They will also benefit from training with cutting-edge equipment, including purpose-built simulation wards, taught by lecturers who are experienced in nursing. 

Mum-of-three Shagufta Jabeen, 47, pictured below, is going into her third year on the BA (Hons) Social Work. She carried out a one-year Access Course in Health and Social Care at Bradford College in 2018. 

She said: “While at college, my teachers encouraged me to apply to university to study further. They told me I had what it needs to be a social worker. I never thought I would go to university, especially at this age. The process of applying was easy and I enjoyed every part of it, from the interview to the tour around the university and the Open Day. 

“When I saw there were other mature students on the course, I felt at ease. I work part-time while studying, which helps me manage my household as well. I can’t believe I am graduating next year. Looking back this was the best decision I made for myself. This degree will give me financial security and job satisfaction.”

Social Work student

She added: “It’s never too late to live your dream. As a mature student you have the edge of bringing a lot of life and work experience with you."

Former hair and beauty therapist Leon Breheney, pictured below, discovered his passion for social work when he started the process to adopt his daughter in 2018. 

Leon, 43, from Dewsbury, who worked in care homes before running his own hair salon for 10 years, said: "The University of Bradford recognised that I had Level 2,3 and 4 in Health and Social Care but not necessarily the academic qualifications required. They looked at my life experience and character instead and I loved that.

"The best bits about the course so far has been the student engagement and how the lecturers really adapt their teaching to your learning style.

"I've had so much support from my lecturers and peers, it's made me more confident as a person. I think when people see something within you, it gives you a real boost. I put myself forward for more opportunities and do loads of extra-curricular activities, including being the President of the Social Justice Society."

Social Work student

Assistant Professor Natalie Finch said: “Adult nursing is a really accessible career for people who want to retrain later in life. Here, at Bradford, we have a variety of different pathways onto our programme, including accepting people with NVQs and practical care experience. Our nursing courses are really diverse in terms of the student group. We have people from all walks of life and all ages, and so we have lots of experience in supporting mature learners to achieve success, even if they haven’t studied for some time. Once qualified, there is a massive range of job options available, with a variety of different working patterns so our graduates can find roles which fit around their own lives and commitments.”

Tim Kilgallon, a lecturer in social work and care, said: “We have very good links with local authorities and other employers and many of our social work placements are within easy reach at Bradford. These placements include assisting students who have care or family responsibilities.  We have a long track record of assisting mature students in their learning.” 

**Places for the BSc Nursing (Adult) and BA Social Work are still available through Clearing.