New government funding for part-time study may lead to a surge of older students returning to the classroom, according to the director of the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) at the University of Cambridge.This year, for the first time, the Government has announced that it will be funding student loans for part-time study towards an award, with no upper age limit for applying.
From September 1, part-time students studying for higher qualifications than they already hold – and provided they are resident in the UK or EU – will be eligible to apply for a tuition fee loan of up to £6,750, meaning they will not have to pay for any tuition fees up front.
Under the new rules, students will not have to repay their loans until they are earning more than £21,000 a year – meaning that many who are retired or on state pensions – sometimes known as ‘grey students’ – may never have to repay their student loans.
ICE’s Dr Rebecca Lingwood said: “We're delighted that the value of part-time study is being recognised with the introduction of Tuition Fee Loans. Our part-time certificate and diploma courses, which are undergraduate-level University of Cambridge awards, attract a huge range of people, many of whom are studying at university level for the first time and do not have the time or the resources to embark on a full-time degree.
“ICE offers them an accessible, intimidation-free route into higher education and gives access to Cambridge’s world-class expertise and facilities.
“ICE courses are also very good value for money compared with traditional undergraduate degrees. A typical certificate course equating to half a year’s undergraduate study costs around £1,350.”
With current research at Cambridge and elsewhere suggesting that education– at whatever age – can help keep the brain healthy, there may never have been a better time for students of all ages to apply.
Dr Lorraine Taylor, from Cambridge University’s Centre for Speech, Language and the Brain, said: “Extensive amounts of research have shown that, whatever our age, maintaining social, intellectual or physical activities has benefits on quality of life, wellbeing, and health which in turn improve cognition.
“Studying later in life has many benefits; it not only increases our skills but also increases confidence, social interaction and general engagement in life. All of these help to maintain cognitive and physical health throughout our lives and into old age.”
Certificate and diploma applications for the new academic year at the University’s Institute of Continuing Education opened to the public in June and close on September 10.
Among ICE’s new courses for 2012-13 are an undergraduate certificate in astronomy, undergraduate diploma in English Literature, an undergraduate diploma in coaching and an undergraduate advanced diploma in philosophy.
ICE is also expected to launch an advanced diploma in ecological monitoring and conservation from February 2013.
Advanced diplomas are two-year, part-time research-based courses taught at third-year undergraduate level via a series of one-to-one supervisions. So they are well-suited to those living farther afield but able to travel to Cambridge occasionally and they provide a solid foundation for postgraduate study.
For more details about ICE and its range of courses, visit: http://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Dr Rebecca Lingwood