What is a Mature Student?

The term ‘mature student’ is usually used when referring to anyone going to university or college after a period of time out of full-time education.

You’re a mature student if you re-enter education aged 21 or above.

Although it can sometimes feel like HCA and other universities are primarily trying to appeal to younger people, mature students form a significant part of the UK university landscape. In fact, over a third of all students starting degrees in the UK in 2018 were mature students (source: HESA).

Being a mature student at HCA means that you will not be treated any differently during study, but there may be very specific levels of support that you will require when you choose to return to study. If you have any questions about returning to education please email enquiries@hca.ac.uk

John Trinder

"HCA is quite a remarkable place - it’s a learning institution like no other. I think it’s a wonderful place to study."

Jon Trinder, BA (Hons) Artist Blacksmithing Student

Entry requirements for BA courses

It may have been several years since you last studied and you may want to know more about whether your previous qualifications and experience will allow you to meet the entry requirements for our degrees.

Entry Requirements for BA (Hons)

  • Portfolio submission (where applicable)
  • Successful interview or audition (where applicable)
  • Academic achievement – we would normally expect applicants to have achieved 80 UCAS Tariff Points at entry but whilst qualifications are important our offers are not solely based on academic results and we may make offers based on other evidence of talent and suitability for the course
  • Related experience
  • Applicants whose first language is not English and require a tier 4 student visa must achieve Level B2 in an approved secure English Language test prior to enrolment. For further guidance please visit the UK Visa and Immigration website.

If you don’t quite meet the entry requirements to undertake the degree, we can help you prepare with The Portfolio Course which is designed for mature students who wish to return to education.

Entry requirements to MA course

If you would like to study on one of MA courses, we would prefer you to have a BA (Hons) degree. However, if you are an exceptional applicant who has a lot of experience in their previous field you will be considered. If you are an independent maker, fine artist, practitioner that would like to take a different route or redefine your discipline you may be accepted onto one of our MA courses. Please contact registry@hca.ac.uk for more information.

Lin Mathias

Lin Mathias - BA (Hons) Fine Art Graduate

I've been at HCA for 7 years. It has been an incredible journey, something I wouldn't have missed for the world. It really has changed my life, my attitude and views.

Lin started her journey at HCA on the Portfolio Course and went on to study and graduate from BA (Hons) Fine Art where she studied part-time. Lin is now a successful curator.

Deciding to study as a mature student

Approaching higher education as a mature student can be both exciting and daunting. You should consider a number of factors when you’re choosing if you want to go:

Your personal circumstances

Mature students are a diverse group. You could be in your early 20s and have few other commitments, making starting university relatively straightforward. Or you may have a lot to consider, such as your job and family.

Carefully considering your current situation will help you determine whether or not going to university is feasible, and if so, what type of degree or MA you can study and how. If a full-time degree isn’t manageable, we also offer part-time degrees.


Choosing the right course for you

HCA provides a range of creative degree courses and MA courses to help you pursue your passion for the creative arts.

We value mature students for the enthusiasm and life skills they bring to their studies and believe that your broad life experience can give you a creative edge. If you’re enthusiastic and committed, then we invite you to come in for an informal conversation and personal tour where you will be able to learn more about our courses, tour our beautiful campus and talk to staff and current students about life at HCA. Alternatively, you are very welcome to join us at one of our virtual open days.

Your ideal study environment

The majority of our mature students are local to our college. However, some of our students are not limited to location so live in our student accommodation. For further information visit our student housing.

Fees and Funding

Finances can be an obstacle for our mature students, who often have to consider how funding their studies will affect their household budgets.

To help mitigate this, there are funding options available:

Fees and funding – degree courses

All students studying for their first undergraduate degree are entitled to a Tuition Fee loan (there is no upper age limit) of £9,000 (full time) £4,500 (part time).

English students studying for their first undergraduate degree and aged under 60 years on the first day of the academic year are entitled to a maintenance loan of up to £9,203 or £4,601 if you study part-time. Welsh students are entitled to maintenance support of up to £9,810 (full-time) or £3,622.50 (part-time).

Students aged 60 years or over on the first day of the academic year studying full time, are not eligible for a maintenance loan but would be eligible to apply for a means-tested special support loan of up to £3,893 if you live in England or £5,161 Special Support Grant if you live in Wales. There is no maintenance support available for part time study for students aged 60 years or over.

Loans have to be repaid, but you will not start paying them back until you have left College and are earning over £26,575 per annum. The amount you repay is 9% on earnings above £26,575 and repayment is made through the UK tax system.

How much loan you receive is dependent on your household income, where you live and previous study. To get an estimate of how much loan you could receive, please use the student finance calculator.

For more information about student finance, please visit www.gov.uk/student-finance or www.studentfinancewales.co.uk/

There are also some often-overlooked ways to save money while studying your degree – full-time students of any age are exempt from paying council tax, public transport is discounted, and many businesses and institutions offer student discounts regardless of age.

Further information on funding can be found here for full and part-time study in England and Wales.

Funding for full-time study and part-time study in England

Funding for full-time study and part-time study in Wales


Fees and funding – MA courses

The tuition fee for 2021-22 has been set at £6,000 for non-HCA graduates to study the MA full time (45 weeks) and £5,500 for HCA graduates who completed an undergraduate course at HCA within the last 2 academic years.

For Students from England support is available from Student Finance England (SFE) and the Student Loans Company (SLC).

Postgraduate Loans are available from Student Finance England for up to £11,570 as a contribution towards course and living costs. If you are studying over two academic years, the loan will be split equally and paid in three instalments each academic year.

If you live in Wales Postgraduate Masters Finance is a combination of loan and grant for up to £17,489 as a contribution towards course and living costs. If you are studying over two academic years, the loan will be split equally and paid in three instalments each academic year.

Students must be aged under 60 years old at the start of the academic year to be eligible.

You will not be eligible for a Postgraduate Loan if you have already achieved a Master’s Degree, or a qualification that is equivalent or higher.

If you live in England you should be able to apply for a Postgraduate Loan from June 2021 at www.gov.uk/masters-loan If you live in Wales apply at www.studentfinancewales.co.uk

Postgraduate loans have to be repaid but you will not start paying them back until you are earning £21,000 or above and then you repay 6% above £21,000.

For more information, please visit Student Loans Company or GOV.UK

Further information on funding can be found here for England and Wales.


HCA offers hardship bursaries and signposts to funding support for eligible mature students, including support for childcare, for those who live with dependent adults, and those who have dependent children. Read more here.

How to apply

If you’re aged 21+ and wish to apply only to Hereford College of Arts, please contact the Registry team – registry@hca.ac.uk for further information about the application process.

Mature Students 1

Tom Hancock

BA (Hons) Contemporary Design Crafts 

“Access to the resources is the best thing about HCA, having an idea and the support to run with it”

Mature Students

Libby Vale

BA (Hons) Contemporary Design Crafts

“Mature students at HCA are lucky to have such a vibrant arts community in close locality, it gives us a second chance at enhancing our creativity. For me it was life changing, instead of focusing on my family and nurturing others it was finally a chance to nurture myself.”

John Sanders 1

BA (Hons) Textile Design

John Sanders

After a break from education I wanted to find a place where I could explore who I was as a designer without being forced into any one particular box, for me Hereford College of Arts was the right place for me to achieve this. When I spoke to staff, they are were engaging, helpful and really supportive. I had a great interview experience where I was instantly put at ease and inspired by passionate staff who also worked in industry.