Increasing mature student recruitment – report now available to purchase

The Office for Students has identified reversing the decline in higher education participation by mature students as a key priority relating to improving fair access to higher education. However, mature students have different hopes and fears, media habits, decision-making processes and information needs than their younger counterparts. This collaborative insight report provides fresh qualitative intelligence to help widening access and recruitment teams engage in a more sophisticated way with this unique audience.


How the report will help you

Smarter strategy
Inform the strategy and work involved in communicating and engaging with prospective undergraduate mature students effectively
Fresh evidence
Provide evidence to support your university’s activities with mature students for widening access plans

Identify opportunities for new programmes or initiatives that could better support mature students decision-making journeys
Engage stakeholders
Provide an evidence base to engage stakeholders in a joined-up approach (e.g. faculties and alumni)

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More about the university decision-making project

This research project, completed in November 2020, was based on an online qualitative community with 40 prospective or current students (in their first or second year) who were/will be aged 21 and over when they start(ed) university and 20 in-depth interviews also based on the same mature student criteria .  It explores the decision-making journeys and influencers of mature students and their transitions into university life.

Qualitative interview and discussion community responses were thematically coded and analysed with quotes included in the report. Demographics are included and the report summarises the findings, the implications of the research and suggested actions which could be taken.

Report contents include:

  • What is the decision-making process for mature student applications? How does this differ from typical applicants?
  • What are the key drivers of decision-making and what influences decisions? How does this differ from typical applicants?
  • How do Universities make it into consideration sets? What influences this?
  • In what way are the media habits and information seeking behaviours of mature prospective students different?
  • What specific hopes, fears and aspirations are underpinning prospective mature students’ information needs?
  • What types of messaging, tone and visuals will resonate effectively with mature students?
  • How does this differ across the different styles of undergraduate study? (e.g. full, part-time, distance, blended learning)

Project Partners

This project was developed in partnership with a number of clients who helped to shape the research design through our collaborative University Futures model. With thanks to:

  • Birkbeck, University of London
  • University of Bristol
  • University of East Anglia
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Surrey
  • University of Winchester