Mature student, with child and partner?

(27 Posts)
Rixera Fri 30-Dec-16 01:47:03

Just wondering how any of you manage?
I missed out on uni due to hard home life, now with a 20 month old DD I'm starting to wonder again. I always dreamed of studying at Cambridge and though that may be out of reach I'm about to begin an access to higher education diploma with a view to getting a degree in English.

I'm just a bit lost as to how to manage picking us all up and moving to wherever might accept me in two years. We have all our furniture, thoughts about DD's schooling, OH finding another job, finding another place to rent, childcare...
But in the same breath how could we manage if I moved to study alone? The extra drain on finances, OH effectively a single parent, DD missing her mummy.

How does anyone do it?!

OP’s posts: |
aforestgrewandgrew Fri 30-Dec-16 01:51:21

I studied as a mature student, it was tough but doable. However there's no way I could have moved away to do it, that's too big a sacrifice for your DD to make IMO, the benefits of you having a degree don't outweigh you not being there in her early years IMO.

If your partner is happy to move then why not all move? As long at the uni town is also a place he can work in and suits your family life - why not?

How long's your Diploma, is it 2 years?

Rixera Fri 30-Dec-16 08:45:30

I agree- I want to look at all options but the idea of not being there for her is heartbreaking. Bit hypocritical though as we were contemplating my OH having to live separately for work in order to jump at any job opportunities that are a step up.

He hates his job but the chance to take the next step up are scant and competitive, which would make moving tricky as he has a job he can't get fired from here (they depend on him too much), but he will never really be paid more than £18k a year for a job that deserves £25k.

The sheer cost of things like removals vans is terrifying. We rent a nice place here- it feels so selfish to rock the boat for everyone but it is also the ticket to a better lifestyle for all of us as a degree gives me access to a good career.

OP’s posts: |
Leatherboundanddown Fri 30-Dec-16 10:28:54

I think it would be better if you stay together as a household. I did all my studying as a single parent and it was really hard. Can you say what subject you want to do?

I would really look into which unis offer your course. Either you all move to near there but you risk dp not finding work immediately, or you commute to where you can. Realistically most degrees do not have contact time every day anyway. Plus the semesters are 9 weeks long, so really you are looking at being there Oct- mid Dec, Jan - March and then April -June. The holidays are long so you wouldn't really have to live apart.

Have you looked at The Open University? You wouldn't have to do the access course you could go straight to the degree and you can still get loans to pay for it. Distance learning can be a good option when you have children.

Leatherboundanddown Fri 30-Dec-16 10:30:56

Sorry, I see you already said it is English. What job do you want to do afterwards?

OohhThatsMe Fri 30-Dec-16 10:45:04

Why on earth would you have to live separately? There are tons of universities around - can't you all move to one that suits you? Many students have accommodation for families, too - have you looked at that?

titchy Fri 30-Dec-16 10:55:20

Most people in your situation either study with the OU, go to their local university (there are very few places in the U.K. Which don't have a nearby university), or commute, perhaps staying in a travelodge one or two nights a week.


bevelino Fri 30-Dec-16 20:16:05

OP I wish you well in your studies and it is doable if you have children and a supportive partner, but it will be a massive upheaval for you to move away to study alone. I managed to study law with a one year old at a London University, but it would not have entered my head to leave my baby. Can you attend a local college and then move as a family while studying at university.

Sofabitch Fri 30-Dec-16 20:23:56

Just go to your local university. It's perfectly doable. Get good full time childcare and you'll be fine.

Of course it's hard. But im pretty sure it's hard for most people.

Loads of people do uni with a baby. I have 4 children and am in my 3rd year.

LotisBlue Fri 30-Dec-16 20:30:35

I think most mature students go to their local university. It's what I did, even though it was pre children. It might also be a good idea to study part time, so you can earn money as well.

Good luck!

Nongoddess Fri 30-Dec-16 20:36:46

Op I'm sure you've already thought of this if you're interested in Cambridge but check out Lucy Cavendish College specifically for mature undergrads. They will be happy to talk to you, and there will be lots of people in similar situations if you go to an open day; they may even have accommodation they can offer at a cheap(ish) rate. In Oxford you could try Harris Manchester (similarly for mature students)

NapoleonsNose Fri 30-Dec-16 20:42:30

I went to my local uni, well localish as it is 40 miles away, as a mature undergrad with two DC. I only applied to that one uni so that was my only choice. Seriously, no need to move.

Sharptic Fri 30-Dec-16 20:43:43

I'm in my last year of uni. Only applied to a local uni for a very competitive course and got in luckily. The degree course was partly chosen because of its locality and career prospects and I'm pleased I went for it now! I wouldn't have considered moving my family or me to study.

Good luck and hope u achieve what u want to smile

wizzywig Fri 30-Dec-16 20:44:09

I'm onto my second masters via distance learning with 3 kids. You just become very organised

Rixera Fri 30-Dec-16 22:23:37

Thankyou all so much for your replies.

You're all quite right, I don't have to move. But I don't want to do distance learning as I want the full experience of studying, attending lectures, being in the uni environment, especially as my OH tends not to acknowledge I need time to study when I'm just home all day... And I'd rather strive for Oxbridge/Russel group than my slightly disappointing local uni. I know this is elitist, and feel quite guilty about it- a degree is a degree, right?

But when in school, I managed to achieve 16 GCSEs, nothing lower than a b, while enduring the kind of abuse told in memoirs with pictures of crying children on the front. I'd love to reach my dream uni
I love studying and know I have both the intellectual capacity and self motivated work ethic, but will anyone take me seriously without a levels or a work history?

Nongoddess particularly- do you think it is worth a shot? I've looked at Lucy Cavendish very wistfully but not spoken to them.

How did anyone manage financially with childcare? Did you save the costs initially, get a grant, or wait until your partner could cover it together with household bills?

OP’s posts: |
LotisBlue Fri 30-Dec-16 23:07:27

I don't think you get the whole 'student experience' as a mature student - you will be too busy with your family life to join in with the social life of the younger students.

Wrt which university is best, it really depends on the subject you want to study. Your 'disappointing' local university might turn out to be the best place in the country in your particular subject smile

Financially, I coped by working. Which is probably why I didn't get much time to get involved in any of the student social life grin

Sofabitch Fri 30-Dec-16 23:47:35

Start with an access course. They will also advise on uni applications.

Grants depend on your partners income.

No university is worth being away from your child. It's not elietist it's reality.

How far is your nearest Russel group?

A BSc at my local shit uni is good enough for applying to PhDs at Russel groups... yet my local Russel group wouldn't even consider my access course. So a lot depends what you want to do. It's possible you might have to do 3 A levels.

Rixera Sat 31-Dec-16 00:41:36

Haha believe me I'm not looking for the student social life. Just classes and a library!

Did you work part time and study part time, or a full time course and very little sleep?

We did have to consider my partner moving away for work temporarily when very hard up indeed so would be hypocritical to say I couldn't do it, if it meant I could get a job, get off benefits, and do something fulfilling too I'd do it as a stop gap until he found a job and could move. But that's the last resort.

I'd definitely be willing to redo a levels, wish I had them too, but a few places say online they also take access to he diplomas so if others have done it I'll try it, especially as I get a module free as we are low income.

OP’s posts: |
Leatherboundanddown Sat 31-Dec-16 00:47:46

Decide what job you want to do after your degree and find out if the degree will get you there. Put a plan in place now. Consider doing a work placement year too between years 2 and 3 as this could get you a foot in the door. Would Oxbridge have any advantage at all getting you into your first job over a different uni? If so what? Have a think about these things.

AndNowItsSeven Sat 31-Dec-16 00:50:50

How are you on benefits if your dp works? Isn't jsa six months?
When you have a child it's not an option to move away and leave them to fulfill your dreams. You will need to go to your local uni or wait until they are an adult,

Rixera Sat 31-Dec-16 01:16:39

I want to work in publishing ideally, another very competitive market.

Not JSA, on other benefits as he has shit pay for stupid long hours. And I get PIP for disability.

Again, wouldn't be permanent thing- would just be until he found a job closer. We really have crappy prospects right now. I have no work history or qualifications and all the stigma of being a teen mum, he has a shit job that the employers are keeping him trapped in.

OP’s posts: |
aforestgrewandgrew Sat 31-Dec-16 07:24:21

When I started uni, I chose to study full time as it made more sense with kids it meant we would be better off financially and I would have more time with the kids.

The key issue was that as a full time student I got access to the childcare grant which paid a significant amount of childcare. As a part time student I wouldn't have been eligible for this. Also there are a load of other things I would have been eligible for as a full time student but not part time.

This meant that if I studied part time I would be effectively working to pay childcare so would be no better off, but would have less time for study while the degree it would take longer. Also, at the uni I went to, a part time degree was more than half the modules - you did 4 a year instead of 6. But with the time taken up by my work I would have had much less time for study.

Studying full time was the better option .

However - I think the childcare grant may have changed since I started, and eligibility for grants on part time may have changed too. Before you decide whether to go full time or part you need to find out what you'd be eligible for and how the finances would work for you.

They keep changing things so you should research this in the year you apply.

LotisBlue Sat 31-Dec-16 09:06:45

I worked ft and studied pt, which was doable without children. With dc, you would probably have to work pt.

bevelino Sat 31-Dec-16 10:55:54

OP you sound like you need to research your options for studying as a mature student. You have received sound advice in this thread that it is doable. However you may need to consider your approach carefully so that you can manage your studying while having a family life.

I don't fully understand parts of your post when you mention 16 GCSE's taken, while enduring the kind of abuse told in memoirs etc.

DownAmongtheElves Sat 31-Dec-16 11:23:06

OP I love teaching mature -age students. THey know why they want to be there, and they work very hard.

Some things to think about:

You'll need to be organised

Your DH will need to be thoroughly supportive (more female mature-age students get degrees than marriages survive sadly). Your DH will need not to be a self-centred man. He will also need not to be threatened by the ideas you will encounter in an English degree

And that brings me to the professional advice I can give you:
There are many many English degrees. MOst universities run some sort of literary studies programme.

If you want to get into publishing, you'll need to go to a "good" university - one that is recognised in the literary industry.

And you'll need to be prepared to be based in London to work in publishing.

Because English degrees are so common, you'll need to do your research - I'm afraid that the advice upthread re going to the local university may not be in your long term best interests for your career.

But ... "getting into" publishing is a very difficult thing. Publishers I know are shedding staff left, right & centre. So it may be that your ultimate career aim isn't enough to move your family etc. Only you will know that, so bear that in mind when reading my post.

But, I'm just trying to give you advice from an academic POV.

The other way to do it is to do a degree at a local university - get a First, and then do a Masters in a good research-led university (not necessarily only Russell Group!) At my place, we get a lot of people upgrading their first degree from somewhere like Edge Hill. They do find it quite a step up from a non-research university, however. But it might be the way to go.

Non-research-led universities can be a great way to get back into education. They are generally more diverse, with a higher proportion of mature-age, first-in-family to attend university etc. NB this isn't about university snobbery - it's about educational attainment generally mapping onto socio-economic advantage. Read all the m-c posts in this Higher ED forum and you'll see what I mean!

Once you're at university (and universities really love mature-age students, and most of us academics love teaching you), you will need to be prepared to have your ideas & your intellectual world & your personal world turned upside down - or at least sideways.

This is really important - don't resist it. I often teach women's studies, and it's dangerous knowledge, but essential. But it can be difficult to negotiate between intellectual revolution and your own life. Make contact with your Personal Tutor, or let your family into your new life. Or both!

It's because the research methods of the Humanities generally are based on "critical analysis" - that is, a kind of intellectual scepticism which requires us to analyse (pull apart to see how it works) from a stand point which is usually oppositional from the POV of social "norms" (viz. feminism). It's often seen as "left wing" but it's actually just oppositional to established hierarchies of power, and asks students to assess critically the ideologies within which we live.

It's exciting, but IME mature-age students can find it personally challenging and sometimes threatening. Probably because they care so much more, and are invested in making deep connections between learning & life, which my 19 yo undergrads rarely can be bothered to do. Or rather, the 19 yos who do do that are the ones who do really well, shine, and are a delight to teach.

Anyway, HTH - feel free to PM me about likely English programmes near you. I serially name change (have been stalked on here) so will probably disappear with this NN. BUT happy to be PM'd if it helps.

Good luck!!

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