How on earth did they do it?
: Exploring the lived experiences of part-time mature students returning to postgraduate education and successfully completing their degrees.

  • Dina Faidi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


Part-time mature postgraduate students are the ‘least resourced, least valued, and least well understood’ students in the UK (NIACE, 2005). The decision to pursue a higher degree is a significant step for anyone to take. For part-time mature students this step brings challenges and requires special knowledge, skills, and attitudes. The number of mature students returning to postgraduate studies continues to increase. Governments' education policies continue to encourage lifelong learning. This thesis explores part-time mature students’ experiences in pursuit of postgraduate degrees several years after graduation. The study sought to establish who mature students were, what motivated them to return, their lived experiences, and how they were able to successfully complete their degrees. Eighteen participants who were older than 25 when they returned to higher education took part. Out of these, seven graduated with master’s degrees and 11 with doctoral degrees. The study was phenomenological in nature and the voices of the participants were central. An interpretive framework stemmed from the findings’ analysis of participants’ lived experiences is presented to the reader.

The findings provide insights into their lived experiences. Their multiple identities, gap of years, and time pressure appear to be challenges they needed to overcome. While their motivation, prior life experiences, skills like organisation and perseverance contributed to their successful degree completion. The essential role of support from families, friends and supervisors and the critical role of universities was revealed. The study concludes with suggestions for further research and recommendations for governments, universities, and future mature students themselves.
Date of Award21 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSam Carr (Supervisor) & Michael Fertig (Supervisor)


  • higher education
  • mature students
  • part-time
  • postgraduate
  • adult learning

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