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

In our second episode I’ll be talking with John, Natalia and Fiona, University of Plymouth students, Discover how they found the confidence to follow their dreams.

  • John has just completed his BSci in Ocean Science and Marine Conservation – John enjoyed his time serving as a Marine after leaving school, but says that as he’s gotten older he’s started to think more about the environment, John wanted to do something in marine conservation but didn’t know exactly what, and now having become a real “scientist” himself, something he never thought he could achieve – the world is literally his oyster! There’s also some really valuable info about how the Armed forces can support people into study after leaving, see show notes below for further info about the MoD’s Enhanced Learning Credits Scheme.
  • Natalia is currently studying Dietetics – Natalia enjoyed arts subjects at school and went straight into studying film making at university after leaving school, she worked in London in the film industry, before developing a second career in hospitality, when she became a coffee expert. These experiences in her twenties led Natalia to wanting to explore the world of nutrition more fully. As nutrition is a totally different field from what Natalia had trained in, she faced the obstacle of not immediately having the academic qualifications she needed to enroll in an HE course, so she had to take two GCSEs and a science foundation course before she could start her degree course – find out why she believes that as an adult learner you may have better developed skills for studying.
  • Fiona is studying Marine Biology – Fiona didn’t feel very committed at school but always liked marine animals, after years of jobs that she didn’t believe in and didn’t enjoy her husband asked her “What do you really want to do”…

Before they started their HE courses, all three of these adult learners thought that they didn’t feel they were academic enough – but actually not only have they changed their opinion about what that means, but also they now have more self-confidence as a result of studying at HE.

As Natalia points out our working lives are long, so retraining to do something you want to is actually a relatively small chunk of that time even if it’s 3-6 years, and it makes the long part much better. Even if you have to add on time to do the prerequisite things like re take GCSEs or do foundation courses.

Knowledge and preparation can break down the barriers, your passion for your subject will you motivate you, and organisation and an open mind can keep you sane doing it.

Maybe we need to stop asking why would you go back to study – and ask instead why wouldn’t you.


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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