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HE Knowledge Hub Podcast: Series 2 – Adult Learners Episode 1 University of Plymouth

Welcome to the HE Knowledge Hub podcast Series 2.

In this second series we’re going to be speaking with adult learners studying HE courses at our 14 partner institutions, across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset. We hope you find their experiences inspiring and insightful.

In 2019/20 there were around 254,000 mature undergraduate entrants at UK universities; 37% of all undergraduate entrants.

As an adult learner you may encounter more barriers to studying from the juggle of family life, work and learning, to finances, and the impact all of this on your mental health and wellbeing. The people you’ll hear from in this series have all encountered and overcome many barriers to their studies.

Sometimes when the challenges seemed too great – their desire to want to change things or fulfil their desire to do an HE course, plus inspiring determination has propelled them over the barriers, with support from family, friends and the HE institutions’ staff and support services.

Series 2 Adult Learners, Episode 1: University of Plymouth Students

In this first episode I’ll be talking to Zoe, Joanne and Jack, they vary in age and experience, yet remarkably their takeaways about the benefits of HE are resounding.

  • Zoe is currently studying Occupational Health, she found A-levels a challenge and didn’t know what she wanted to do after school. Having experiencing jobs with limited prospects Zoe felt she wanted to find a field that she could progress in, after taking online quizzes, assessing skills, likes and dislikes occupational therapy kept cropping up. Zoe talks about the benefits of HE aside from the qualifications you gain, she made use of specific support services that enabled her to make the most of her studies. Originally Zoe thought that HE wasn’t for her but it turns out almost half the people on her course have had a break in between their studies.
  • Joanne has just completed her BA hons in Business Management. Joanne enjoyed school but due to family circumstances left when she was 16 without L3 qualifications. After achieving success in various fields but ultimately feeling like there was only so much she could achieve without an HE qualification Joanne spoke to her son’s friends who explained that the obstacles she felt prevented her from going to uni, could be overcome with some research. And Joanne hasn’t stopped asking question since, she talks to us about the advantages of foundation courses and all the benefits she has gained in her time at university. Joanne talked about feeling intimidated about how much of life is online now – we should point out that you can still request a paper copy of the UCAS application form if you feel more comfortable doing it that way. I think what is most surprising about Joanne’s experience of HE is that rather than just the means to an end, He is part of who she is and her future career.
  • Jack is studying a BA Hons in Directing. Unlike most of his contemporaries didn’t go straight into HE after leaving school. Having experience of FE and HE he knew he wanted to do Directing, but waited until he felt he had the right experience for the course. As a first generation uni goer from Sunderland Jack faced various challenges, moving across the country and studying in lockdowns added to his feeling of chronic isolation. Yet Jack maintains that his and anyone else’s experience of HE is what you make of it. And it’s not all about the end goal, there is so much personal growth to be found in an HE experience.

These three adult learners from different backgrounds, with different experiences of education all highlighted the same thing, studying at HE level… “IS NOT JUST A PIECE OF PAPER”. They all discovered unexpected things about themselves and their life path, and all agree that their HE experience turned out to be quite different from how they thought it would.

For more information dedicated to those considering returning to study after a break, visit the Adult Learner section of our website, where you can sign up for free impartial advice from careers advisors.

If you enjoyed this episode of HE Knowledge Hub Podcast, listen to more here: Listen to all episodes

Show Notes


  • Tuition Fees – the money that you pay to the university or college each year of study, currently (April 2022) it is up to £9,250 per year. The tuition fee loan is paid straight to your university or college, and doesn’t come to you first.
  • Maintenance Loan – this is a loan to cover your living costs (including your accommodation) it is paid directly to you, in termly instalments.
  • Threshold – we use this term to mean the amount you can earn before you start paying your loans back, currently £27,295 (correct as of June 2022, although this does change, usually annually each April).
  • Disabled Students’ Allowance – you will have heard that there is a Disabled Student Allowance that you can apply for. You could be eligible for this if you have a disability that affects your ability to study. The list includes:
    • learning difficulty, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, or ADHD
    • mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression
    • physical disability, such as if you’re partially sighted or have to use crutches
    • long-term health condition, such as cancer, chronic heart disease, or HIV

You can find out more here:

Useful links


Sound credits – https://www.bensound.com/


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