Princess Royal discusses adult education at Stratford's UEL
A beacon of adult education in Stratford welcomed HRH Princess Royal back onto campus last week for a seminar promoting opportunities for mature students.
The royal visitor returned to University Square Stratford, just three months after officially unveiling the project, a partnership between the University of East London and Birkbeck.
Policy experts, leading figures in education and current mature students at UEL - which boasts 53 per cent of its student population as adult learners - joined Princess Anne for a discussion jointly hosted by UEL and The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE).
Professor John Joughin, UEL vice-chancellor, said USS was "uniquely placed" to host the event.
"We have always had an ethos about encouraging access to excellence and providing opportunities for the community," he told The Wharf.
"It's sometimes a second chance at higher education.
"That's part of our mission as a university, to be offering people the chance for an education at whatever stage of life. They deserve the opportunity."
Set against a 14 per cent national decline in the number of full-time mature student applications since the new loans system was introduced - as well as a reduction in part-time undergraduate enrolment - the seminar pinpointed challenges of mature student access, trends and analysed what could be done better.
Princess Anne, a patron of NIACE, said her interest in further education for adults stemmed from her involvement with Save The Children and encouraging mothers to find a way back into education.
"Finding the connections to make to encourage adults to go back into education is a challenge in itself," she said.
"That all seems to be coming together here, with Birkbeck and UEL very much majoring in mature students and giving them the best possible access to the highest level of education.
"I do think part of the battle is about confidence. Confidence is a very fragile commodity - you only have to look at sportsmen at key moments - and I don't think it's any different with education, in terms of the decision-making process."
Professor Joughin said their successes could play a role in the wider east London community.
"There's industry and business crying out for the types of skills that university degrees offer and those life skills that many mature learners already have.
"Often people who have had other life experiences have quite a lot to offer higher education as well, so it works both ways. It is a perfect combination."
Go to uel.ac.uk.