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Strathclyde Business School

Why embracing adult learning was the best decision I ever made

By Sally Brackenridge - Posted on 21 May 2013

For Adult Learners Week, Sally Brackenridge, a second year BA Hons Business student (Accounting with business law) discusses what it’s been like to turn her back on a 20 year career to juggle family life with full time education…

Coming back to education has been a fantastic but at times strange experience. Perhaps there’s more variation in age on other courses, but certainly an accounting lecture does feel full of young, glowing people…and me – with a sprinkling of grey hair. I’ve had fleeting thoughts along the lines of ‘Am I mad – doing this now?’ But these thoughts passed pretty quickly.

The course has been seriously full-on. There’s no doubt that embarking on a degree when you’ve still got other commitments is not something to be undertaken lightly. On the other hand, having been away from education for a while it’s exhilarating to sit through even the driest of lectures – what an amazing privilege to be given this knowledge and expertise from those who may have spent decades acquiring it. You have to work hard and do your bit, but the return is phenomenal!

Another aspect of university learning is that of pushing your own intellectual boundaries, and allowing an element of creativity into your learning. Many of the essay-type assignments are very open, leaving you to choose your own path. This is difficult – there is no ‘right answer’ – but it allows you to find a line that interests you and pursue it.

One of the most eye-opening experiences has been working with other students, in particular in the Management Development Programme (a compulsory class for Strathclyde Business students which develops skills such as team-working, decision-making and leadership). This was a part of the course that I was dreading – I’d spent the last 20 years at work getting myself into a comfortable niche where I didn’t have to deal with any of that stuff. However, although there were certainly moments where I was out of my comfort zone, the overall experience was hugely positive and beneficial. I was in a group of six students and we had to complete various tasks as a team (written assignments and a couple of presentations around the idea of developing a business). Working as part of a small, motivated, bright and enthusiastic group was a fantastic experience of something I had long felt I was not cut out to do.

My focus is on getting as much as possible out of the course itself, both in the sense of getting as good marks as I’m able, but also in the sense of exploring new subjects and stretching myself. Next year I’d like to take advantage of some of the peripheral activities organised by university departments and the various student associations, in particular the numerous events that are set up to enable students to meet representatives from the accounting regulatory bodies, the big accounting firms, and other prospective employers. These opportunities will give me a better idea of which particular accounting path I may wish to take.

I feel that mature students have potentially a great deal both to gain and to offer at university. I don’t think it would be the right choice for all adult learners, but I absolutely don’t think that anyone should be put off the idea of going to university solely because they feel ‘too old’.

Are you thinking about returning to education as an adult learner? Have you already gone through the process? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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University of Strathclyde
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