If you live in the UK and want to go into higher education, but are over 50 years of age you will not be treated the same as a person of 18 or a woman of 60 or a man of 65, because the government has not put legislation in place to give you equal rights during these ten to fifteen years.
Providing that you are over 21 years of age and independent acceptance at college or university will be based on work experience in addition to formal qualifications and the quality of work presented.
An award for tuition fees is mandatory, and a grant (subject to means testing) towards living costs is provided (£810 in 1998/9, half what a non mature student gets), but, interest free student loans cease to be available at 50 years of age. As Income Support is not available to students no money is available for living costs during these ten to fifteen years. A woman becomes of pensionable age at 60, and a man at 65 when both become eligible for a state pension and Income Support, allowing pensioners a means of support for living costs during study. However, if the partner of the student is a woman under 60 or a man under 65, and not a student and not in work, the non student partner will be able to claim Income Support for themselves and their partner. Additional hardship can arise if both partners wish to study before the woman is 60 and the man has not reached the age of 65 as no additional help with living costs is available beyond the small grant.
It is advisable to discuss any financial problems that you may have with an advisor before any commitment is made. Access funds and hardship funds are available from the student's place of study in case of hardship, but they are limited.