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Later life learning on the increase

Nick Smith

The great inventor Henry Ford once said that “anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty” 1, and it’s a message millennials appear to be taking on board, with nearly three quarters saying its likely they’ll return to education later in life. Contributor Dr Nick Smith, Courses Director and Founder – Oxford Open Learning Trust.

Research2 by distance learning provider, the Oxford Open Learning Trust, has explored the country’s academic intentions, identifying the different factors which appear to affect an individual’s desire to continue learning. Overall, the study revealed the UK to be a population which is committed to lifelong learning, with over half (52 percent) of respondents saying that it is probable that they will carry on studying as they get older.

This figure increases further among the youngest generation, with 73 percent of 18-34s saying that they plan to return to education at some point after beginning their careers. One in four (25 percent) of this age group said that it was ‘very likely’. While the probability of further study naturally decreases as a person goes through life, there were still large proportions of the older age categories which said that they are considering education in the future. Over a third (35 percent) of 45-64 year olds said that they were likely to return to academia.

The research did, however, reveal significant variation between regions, with some areas over twice as likely as others to consider future studying. Two thirds (66 percent) of Londoners said that they were likely to do so, while only half of that said the same in Newcastle (33 percent). The people of Sheffield are the least likely to want to return to education (30 percent).

The top five cities most likely to go back to their studies later in life are:

1) London – 66 percent

2) Glasgow – 60 percent

3) Liverpool – 55 percent

4) Leeds – 52 percent

5) Manchester – 52 percent

Interestingly, the size of a person’s family was also found to be an influencing factor on such decisions. People in middle-sized families, with three or four siblings, were revealed to be the most likely to go back into academia, with 63 percent and 61 percent respectively saying that it was probable. Comparatively, for individuals in small or very large families, this likelihood decreases quite sharply. Just 42 percent of people with one sibling said they want to carry on learning, with the figure falling further for those with more than five (40 percent).

Dr Nick Smith, courses director and founder of the Oxford Open Learning Trust, said: “It’s really encouraging to see that the younger generations are looking to push themselves throughout life and keep on learning.

“While the research revealed a variety of factors affecting the desire for future study, it’s brilliant to see that the UK as a whole is valuing education and looking to reap the benefits of personal development.”

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