Written by: Valerie Hazelrig
It happened to me. There I was, sat at my desk and filing paperwork, when the boss came over with a grave look on her face. She asked if I would join her in the boardroom straight away, and I duly obliged – trailing behind her with my heart sinking rapidly into my stilettos.
There had been talk of redundancies at the company, but I thought my job was safe – I had worked there for 15 years, and to my knowledge, I’d been an exemplary employee. Well, if you forget that incident where I accidentally spilled a carton of milk in the couch on a hot summer’s day.
Once in the boardroom, she handed me my notice, and at the time, I thought it was the end of the world. I had two young children, and my line of work was highly specialised, in a dwindling industry sector.
What should I do next?
It took me a few weeks to get my wits about me and decide what to do – and I’m ever so glad I made the choice to go back to university and retrain. Now I’m working in television after completing a degree in media – it was a bold move that paid off. Not only is the pay better, but so are the prospects – at the age of 43, I’m back on the career ladder, and climbing high. Next stop, director-general of the BBC…
Anyone can retrain
The best investment you will ever make
It goes without saying that when you go back to university, you’ll probably get into debt, but there is plenty of financial help available. You could be eligible for a Tuition Fee Loan, and you can also take out grants and loans to cover living costs like childcare, rent, books, food, transport, and even entertainment. Student loans have an incredibly low rate of interest – currently around 1.5%. Don’t be daunted by repayment – if you’re serious about your studies, you’ll soon repay it once you get your new, better paid job.
You may be eligible for a Child Care Grant if you go back to university as a full-time student. This applies if you have dependent children up to 15, or 17 if your child has special needs. The assessment is based on your personal circumstances, and could pay up to 85% of your childcare costs for 52 weeks of the year. The maximum grant is currently £148.75 per week for one child, and £255 per week for two children or more. And good news – this is a grant, so it does not have to be repaid.
NHS childcare allowance
Fancy retraining as a nurse or health care professional? Even more good news – there’s a means-tested childcare allowance which will cover up to 85% of your registered childcare costs. This is paid in 12 monthly instalments.
The start of something special
So, the future is looking bright for mature students, isn’t it? Universities are welcoming us back with open arms, and if you know where to look, you can find thousands of pounds in grants, loans, and bursaries. And when you’re pulled into the boardroom and handed your notice, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world… it can be the start of something quite wonderful.