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Could I really retrain and go to University?

Retrain at University

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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

Retraining can be for anybody, not just those of us who lose our jobs. If you’re stuck in a boring rut with little chance of career progression, or you fancy turning your hobbies and talents into a professional occupation, then retraining could be perfect.

Welcome back to University

Nowadays, students are going to university at any age, thanks to the the increasingly popular idea of lifelong learning. As a result, mature students are flocking back in droves, to improve their job prospects, to make a new start, or to learn for pleasure.

Get rid of that mental image of university classes  full of freshfaced freshers barely out of nappies – mature students are being welcomed back to the classroom for their enthusiasm, experience, and skills. Because of this, admission requirements are flexible and a range of qualifications will be considered. Most universities and colleges now provide flexible learning programmes too, meaning you can fit your studies in around home life.

Ain’t nothing but a number

And don’t worry about getting rehired once you complete your cause – recent legislation means age-discrimination is no longer allowed, and for most positions, age limits are no relevant, and no longer appropriate.

Childcare options

It may surprise you to learn that many universities provide childcare, in the form of nurseries and crèches. And this is where your homework really begins. Be sure to contact student services early in the application process to find out what provisions are available and how much childcare will cost. It’s vital you check the hours of the childcare – will it give you sufficient time to study? It’s worth noting that childcare facilities vary greatly, and there is often competition for places.

University Creche

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.

Childcare grants

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.




About Valerie Hazelrig

About Valerie Hazelrig

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