Who are mature students?

University can often be thought of as a young person’s game, we are proud to say that 43% of our BA students are considered mature. Mature student covers everyone who is above the age of 21.

Returning to education can be a daunting prospect, “will I be the only older person on my course, is now the right time, do I remember how to be in education.”

Rest assured these questions have been asked a hundred times by those who have come before you and we are delighted to say all of them have proven unfounded, below are several excerpts from interviews after their end of year show.

Mature Students 12

"It's nice doing this at my age, because you've got so much more confidence in yourself and experience and stuff, so as daunting as this is, I feel quite chilled about it. The course has made me feel like that, to have some confidence in what I'm doing."

Caroline Allen, MA Curating Graduate, Owner & Curator of Ridgebank Gallery

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.

  • 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.

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.

Mature Students 13

Gemma Costin - BA (Hons) Fine Art Graduate

Doing the MA has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's given me the chance to get a magnifying glass and really closely study the things I'm passionate about. I'd do it all again tomorrow, if I could.

Gemma graduated BA (Hons) in Fine Art at HCA, and will now be graduating from the MA course in 2022. She will continue her practice during her residency at the renowned 'Sydney Nolan Trust'

Degrees designed around you

As we get older, we gain commitments. There is no reason for you to have to choose between these and a degree.

Considering everyone’s situation is different, there will be ways we can incorporate your life into your studies.

Whether that be through organising times with your lecturers, or even if a part time course would suit you better. Get in touch with our outreach team who can talk you through the ways in which we can make it easier for you to return to education.

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.

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.

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.

Mature Students 10

There's a personal challenge which, a degree gives you the recognition that you've worked for something. People won't necessarily want to see your degree further down the line, but you know that you've done it for you

Fees and Funding

Finances do not need to 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.

Any questions + how to apply

If there’s anything else you want to know about studying a creative degree, you can contact our outreach team via email at outreach@hca.ac.uk or have a chat with one of our advisors, Justin Haines, 01432 273 359

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

Mature Students 14

Helen Henman - BA Contemporary Design Crafts

"There were a few concerns that proved not to be true... Like, can I still write an essay when the only thing I've written in the last 20 years is a risk assessment and a shopping list"

Mature Students 15

Nigel Stroud

BA (Hons) Artist Blacksmithing

“I was in the fire service for 30 years, but I always had it in the back of my mind to do something in the arts, I never really had the chance when I was younger.”

Mature Students 16

Helen Munday

BA (Hons) Contemporary Design Crafts

“I went to Art College when I was younger but never continued, it was a friend who introduced me to the idea of returning to education, I came along to an open day and after seeing everything I kind of thought why not, the kids were a bit older and I had the time.”

Mature Students 17

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.