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HIGHER EDUCATION: Adults Returning to Study


GM Higher – Who are We? Greater Manchester Higher is a collaboration of universities and further education colleges from across Greater Manchester, who are working together to provide high quality impartial information, advice and guidance about higher education.

Who is This Guide for ? This guide is a starting point for adults (defined as anyone over 19) who is thinking about returning to education and studying a higher education (HE) course and takes into consideration key factors that might be important to this group such as finance and childcare.



Why Consider Higher Education? 3

Higher education is the broad term given to all university level qualifications. There is a vast array of higher education qualifications, courses and learning styles, from full time bachelor degrees to part time Higher National Diplomas. There really is something for everyone. This guide aims to help you navigate through the higher education landscape and help you find the course that fits around your lifestyle or responsibilities and get you where you want to be.

Teaching and Learning


Student Experience


Student Support


Types of Qualifications


Entry Requirements


Applying to Higher Education


What to Do and When


Student Finance


Where Can I Study Higher Education in Greater Manchester? 13 Useful Websites



WHY CONSIDER HIGHER EDUCATION? Everyone has their own motivations for returning to study but we’ve listed some common ones below: Financial and Career Benefits

Higher Education Experience

• On average graduates earn more money over a life time than non-graduates

• Study a subject you are passionate about and pursue your interests

• Graduates have access to a wider range of career opportunities and higher paid jobs

• Discover something brand new

• You can ‘Fast Track’ within certain careers such as the Army or Police • Develop skills for employment, from general transferable skills such as organisation to hands on work experience to develop specific skills for a certain career • HE might help you realise a career goal or enable you to change career

• Develop your transferable skills • Meet people from all over the world with a variety of different backgrounds • Get involved with the Students’ Union and join a club or society • You don’t have to move away from home – many further education colleges offer HE courses

TEACHING AND LEARNING Higher education is taught in a variety of ways – what type of classes you have will depend on the type of course you choose to study. You will have a personal timetable, depending on the modules that you have decided to study and you are only expected to be at university or college when you have classes scheduled.

Teaching methods include: • Lectures • Seminars/Tutorials/ Workshops • Independent Study • Practical Classes • Work Placements • Industry Experience

Full Time vs Part Time Study You may get the choice whether to study full time or part time, depending on your course and institution. Full time courses are designed to take the equivalent of 35 hours a week including independent study. Part time courses are more spread out which might help you manage your additional responsibilities however, they do take longer to complete. You should think carefully about which suits you best.

Assessment The way you are assessed will vary from course to course, and most courses will use more than one type of assessment. Common methods include: exams, essays, presentations, reports, portfolios, work placements, practical exams, group work, exhibitions, performances.

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STUDENT EXPERIENCE Students’ Union Most larger institutions have a Students’ Union which provide a number of extra-curricular and social activities such as societies, sports teams and volunteering, as well a number of support services.

Accommodation If you decide to relocate for university, many universities are able to support you in finding accommodation whether that be in Halls of Residence, including accommodation specifically for families or in local privately rented accommodation via their accommodation or student housing office.

STUDENT SUPPORT Pastoral Support All universities and colleges offer an advice and support service for students where you can go for advice regarding how to manage your time and responsibilities whilst studying and they often have advisors who are used to working with students with caring responsibilities.

Academic Support In order to help you succeed, your university or Students’ Union might offer study skills sessions, courses in time management and research skills as well as one-to-one support you can access from your lecturers and tutors via drop-ins and revisions sessions.


Disability Support

Many universities have relationships with local nurseries and can offer ring-fenced places or subsidised fees. Student Finance England can assist you with a grant for childcare costs.

If you have a disability, learning difficulty mental health condition or other long-term health conditions, universities and colleges are there to ensure you have everything you need to have a full student experience. We suggest you contact your chosen institution before you apply to discuss what support is available.

Travel Most public transport companies offer cheaper travel for students and you can buy annual passes. Universities sometimes have allocated parking for students but not always therefore you should research travel options as part of your decision-making.

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Careers Service Most universities and college will have a careers service and their advisors can help you think about your next steps, make the most of opportunities available during your studies and alert you to work experience and graduate job opportunities.



Level 5

Academic Vocational

Level 6 Bachelors Degree • Academic study focused on independent study and research • Typically studied full time for 3 years

Higher National Diploma (HND)



Higher National Certificate (HNC)

• Similar to HNC but takes 2 years to complete full time

• 1 year to complete often with option to study part time

Foundation Degree • 2 years full time, longer if part time • Combines academic study and workplace learning • Designed with employers • Often can be topped up to Bachelors degree

• Designed to teach practical skills for a specific career

Higher and Degree Apprenticeship • Focused on a particular job or profession • ‘Learn whilst you earn’ study for a HE qualification alongside paid work • Qualification and length will vary dependent on apprenticeship

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All university courses have entry requirements which will be clearly stated on the institution’s website. You should check these carefully when making your decisions, and contact them if anything is unclear. Many institutions advise that students who are returning to education contact them directly to discuss entry requirements as often cases are determined on an individual basis and sometimes prior learning and/or work experience will be considered. Level 3 Qualifications Level 3 qualifications are usually studied after GCSE/O Levels and include A levels, the International Baccalaureate, Access to HE courses and level 3 BTECs and NVQs. You will be asked for certain grades or a certain number of UCAS points from these qualifications in order to be eligible to study the course. Sometimes you are required to have studied these qualifications in the past 5 years, therefore check the entry requirements carefully.

Access to Higher Education Courses If you do not meet the level 3 requirements you may want to consider an Access course which is specifically designed for adults who want to progress to higher education. The course is one year full time and upon completion students go straight to university. Pre-access courses are also available for those who do not have the skills or confidence to start an Access course. Visit: to find out more.

Level 2 Qualifications A number of courses will ask for specific level 2 qualifications such as GCSEs or Functional Skills. Some universities may only accept GCSEs and not functional skills. If you do not have these qualifications, they can often be studied alongside an Access to HE course.

English Language Proficiency Higher education students are expected to have the required level of English Language skills. Non-native English speakers may be required to sit an additional test.




Your Application Most universities and colleges will ask that you apply via UCAS ( although some colleges will accept direct applications.

Personal Statements

Choosing What and Where to Study Things to consider:

A significant part of your application will be a personal statement of up to 4000 characters, in which you outline why you want to study the course and how your skills, knowledge and experiences make you suitable candidate.

• Do you have a specific career in mind?


• Is the content of the course what you are looking for? • Is it mainly coursework based or exams based?

You will be asked for a couple of references from past teachers, colleagues or friends and family to write a short piece explaining why you would be a great addition to the course you are applying for.

• Do you meet the entry requirements?


• Do they offer the support and facilities you need?

UCAS send your application to each institution you have applied for. Each institution will make an assessment and process a decision about whether they want to offer you a place on their course. They might want you to attend an interview or assessment day before making a decision. You will be able to access the institutions’ decisions on UCAS Apply and Track.

• Is the course practical or academic?

• Where? Find out which providers deliver the course you are interested in • Do you need to study locally? Look at local colleges as well as universities. • Do your research: look at websites, visit in person and ask questions!

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Start to explore- take advantage of open days. Begin to write your personal statement. UCAS opens for applicationsthe deadline for applying to Medicine, Dentistry and Oxford or Cambridge is 15th October.



The on time UCAS deadline is the 15th January. Applications made after this date do not have to be considered.

Clearing opens for students who have not received any offers.

Student Finance is open for new applications- make sure you apply as soon as possible and before the deadline at the end of May!

AUGUST Confirmation of places happens in August after universities have received everyone’s exam results.



Ensure you have everything you need to submit your application including a personal statement and references.

You will start receiving offers or invitations to interview (depending on the course) from the universities you have applied to. The date you must reply to your offers varies upon when you received them but the final deadline is usually in June.



Start your course!


STUDENT FINANCE Higher education costs money, there’s no getting around it. Exactly how much it will cost you will vary depending on what and where you study. There are two main costs of higher education – tuition fees and maintenance costs. We’ve broken down the different ways these costs can be managed. Tuition Fees

Living/Maintenance Costs

• Universities and colleges can charge up to £9000 per year for full time study. This may increase in the future.

There are a number of costs you may need to consider if you decide to go to university. These include: food, rent, books, travel and childcare. You may be entitled to a maintenance loan to help with these costs. Many students also work alongside studying to meet these costs – how much time you have to work will depend on the intensity of your course (full time or part time).

• Tuition fees vary across courses and institutions. • Every full time UK student is entitled to a tuition fee loan to cover the entire tuition fee. • You may be able to get a Tuition Fee Loan if your part time course has a ‘course intensity’ of 25% or more. • If you have a tuition fee loan the student loan company pay the university or college directly and you do not start repaying the loan until you start earning a decent amount of money after graduation (see repayments).

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Tuition Fee Loan and Maintenance Loan Most students studying higher education in the UK are eligible for a tuition fee and maintenance loan to support with the costs outlined above. There is no upper age limit for accessing this support. How much you are entitled to depends on multiple factors such as: • your university or college • your course • if you’ve studied a higher education course before • your nationality or residency status • household income • whether you course is part time or full time Please see student-finance for more information.

Scholarships and Bursaries Some universities and colleges offer some bursaries and scholarships, which are financial awards that do not need to be paid back. These may be awarded based on family income, or on academic merit or a combination of the two. Bursaries and scholarships vary between institutions and may only be available for certain courses. Full details of financial support available at each institution can be found at or on the institutions’ individual websites.

Additional Support You may also to be eligible to apply for one or more of the following: • Parents’ Learning Allowance • Childcare Grant • Adult Dependants’ Grant

There is also extra financial support available for students with a disability, learning difficulties, mental health conditions, other long-term conditions and students who have experience of being in care. Hardship funds are sometimes available for students who are struggling with their finances.

Entitlement to Benefits Your entitlement to Benefits could change if you are to become a full or part time student. Visit your local Job Centre, Citizens Advice centre or call the Student Finance helpline for specific advice.

how much you repay depends on how much you earn. It is very manageable and you won’t feel burdened by debt when you graduate. If you earn below the threshold for repayment, which is £21,000 per year (this has been frozen until 2021) then you pay nothing. If you earn above the threshold then you will pay back a percentage of what you earn above the threshold.

Repayment After you’ve finished studying at university or college your tuition fee loan and maintenance loan are combined together into a single amount to be repaid. You make repayments once a month and

The finer details of student finance change year to year. What is available this year is likely to change to what is available next year. The most up to date information is available at


WHERE CAN I STUDY HIGHER EDUCATION IN GREATER MANCHESTER? • Ashton Sixth Form College • University of Bolton



For more information about Access to HE courses, including where to study

Online service for young adult carers aged 16-25 with tailored information for those considering attending University

• Bolton College • Bury College

Citizens Advice

• Holy Cross College

For advice on benefits, housing, debt and much more

• Hopwood Hall College • The University of Manchester • The Manchester College • Manchester Metropolitan University • Royal Northern College of Music • University of Salford • Salford City College • Stockport College • Tameside College • Trafford College

Learning and Work institute Information, advice and guidance for adult learners provided by the ‘National Institute of Adult Continuing Education’ and the ‘Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion’

The Money Advice Service

Student Finance Information Information provided by the government

Turn2us Information and advice on benefits

Information regarding money and benefits with specific information for students with children UCAS

PEARL (Part Time Education for Adults Returning to Learn) Outlines non-traditional pathways to higher education, helps users to plan their study journey and find relevant information related to their own chosen career path

Lists all the higher education courses available in the UK

• University Campus Oldham • Wigan and Leigh College

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GM Higher Higher Education: Adults Returning to Study  
GM Higher Higher Education: Adults Returning to Study