The Mature Student… a title at war with itself, by Denise Fraser

‘Mature’ suggests someone who only watches documentaries and owns their own blood-pressure monitor. ‘Student’ suggests someone whose smart(?)phone may have to be surgically removed, and who thinks blood pressure is what you apply when you’ve gotten a paper cut opening the takeaway pizza box.  That the Student position is enthusiastically promoted by Student Unions – with their high-octane invitations to join something, anything, everything – and by promotion-loving breweries, for whom the sight of a student trying to open the door of his Halls of Residence with a battered sausage is one of almost transcendent joy, only makes the schizophrenic nature of the Mature Student title even more apparent.

Consequently a Mature Student is a being adrift, considered by some to be self-indulgent (surely there’s a time and a place for that sort of thing?), by others to be suffering from self-delusion (if you couldn’t do it before, why do you think you can do it now?) and last but not least to be totally irrational (don’t you think you should have a chat with the Doctor?).


Quite how you reconcile these two opposing forces depends on a great many things, although age and gender are often crucial. I became a Mature Student at the age of 50 because my daughters were becoming cleverer and I wasn’t. The thought of my future gravestone bearing the legend ‘Wife, Mother and a Woman who knew her way around Tesco blindfold’ had lost its attraction, and opting for cremation didn’t seem a positive enough step.


So I signed up for an English Degree at Northumbria University with all the enthusiasm of an 18th Century French Aristocrat who has just won the Tumbril Lottery.  [A not-insignificant reference given that the French Revolution cast a long and sometimes puzzling shadow over my first year of study. In fact I almost had my Mature Student privileges revoked (at least I would have done if there had been any) after I took bets on which lecturer would refer to the French Revolution most often on one particular day. The lucky winner walked away with a Who Dares Wins pencil and an out-of-date packet of chocolate digestives, so the stakes weren’t high.]


As my confidence grew there came a point in my 2nd year when the Mature Student’s mantra of ‘getting a 2:2 would be lovely’ soured, and was replaced by the ‘I’m too old to settle for a 2:2 , I want a 2:1’ rant. By my 3rd year I’d developed the ‘I’ve given birth to two children, I’m getting a First’  twitch. So by dint of stepping over the bodies of the Fallen (i.e. students who’d left it all too late and whose eyes swivelled in their heads at the word ‘Dissertation’) and with the help of the few lecturers who didn’t put my drive to succeed down to overexposure to oven cleaner, I gained a First.


My epitaph will now read:

She was a Wife, a Mother and a Graduate, and the only Woman whose Tesco shopping list was in rhyming couplets.


Denise Fraser, BA (Hons)