Oxford invites its adult learners to share their stories | University of Oxford

Oxford invites its adult learners to share their stories

Oxford University is recognising National Adult Learners Week with an online discussion highlighting mature students and lifelong education at the University.

Led by Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education (OUDCE), mature students and OUDCE faculty will be sharing their experiences of adult learning on Twitter. Followers will be encouraged to tweet questions about adult education that will be answered live online from 2pm to 4pm on Friday 18 May using the hashtag #ALW12Oxford. Contributors will be using the hashtags #ALW12 and #ALW12Oxford. The Department will be tweeting from its feed @OxfordConted.

Adult and continuing education students are a significant but often unrecognised part of Oxford University’s student body. In addition to the University's 21,000 full-time students, OUDCE sees around 15,000 enrolments – many of whom are adult learners – take part in its courses each year. The department has been offering part-time adult students education at Oxford for more than 130 years, and is the second-oldest continuing education department in the UK. 

Since the first 'Oxford Extension Lecture' began in 1878, the number of courses offered through OUDCE has grown to more than 800 separate offerings, from weekly classes in Oxford to weekend events, summer schools, online courses, part-time award programmes and professional development programmes that attract students from around the globe. In the 19th and early 20th centuries the British rail network allowed the department to teach in more than 140 centres in towns across England; today online courses attract students from around 70 countries all over the world.

While many part-time adult learners at Oxford are served by Kellogg College, the University's Harris Manchester College is the only Oxford college dedicated solely to full-time mature students on undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Founded in 1786 to train students for 'the learned professions,' the college took its first mature students in 1989, and today has more than 220 students – all of whom were 21 or older when they started their Oxford degrees. 

OUDCE lecturer Marianne Talbot is one member of Oxford who will be taking part in the online event thanks to her own experience as an adult learner. She said: 'I was thrown out of school at 15 for truancy and disruption. I came back to education at 26, when I discovered Philosophy at the Open University. After completing a one year OU course, I went to London University to do a full time degree, got a First, then came to Oxford to do graduate work.

'Twenty-five years later I am still here as Director of Studies in Philosophy at Oxford University Continuing Education. If I can help even one person have the sort of second chance I had then I am happy!'

Director of the Department for Continuing Education Jonathan Michie said: 'Oxford University has engaged with adult learners for over 130 years, yet this is a part of Oxford University’s long history that not many people know about. Today we still keep our original mission of extending Oxford teaching beyond the University's full-time programmes, and our 15,000 part-time students each year come from a wide array of backgrounds, from some of our local neighbours to students of all ages and backgrounds across the globe.

'Most people when they think of an Oxford education think of our young undergraduate members; we want this week to be about recognising the importance of adult learning at Oxford by encouraging people to share their stories, whether they are 28 or 78 years old.'