Meeting the needs of mature students in their intial weeks at university
A phenomenological study was undertaken within a university in the southeast of Eng-land to explore the experiences of lecturers in meeting the needs of mature student nurses in their initial weeks at university. Initially the study sought to consider the extent to which lecturers’ perceptions of mature students’ needs correlated with those identi-fied by students (as identified with the existing literature). The researcher aimed to gain a sense of lecturers’ experiences with mature students and to identify those factors that enhance or inhibit lecturers in meeting the needs of mature students in their initial weeks at university. Finally, the research aimed to explore the extent to which lecturers tailor their practice to meet the needs of mature students. Five semi-structured interviews were undertaken with lecturers holding a range of posi-tions within a School of Nursing, Midwifery & Social Work. Interview transcripts were analysed using Colaizzi’s (1978) framework for the analysis of phenomenological data. Whilst mature students were considered to be a diverse group, lecturers agreed that mature students needed and valued face-to-face contact with lecturing staff and when interacting with staff within the University as a whole. Some participants reported that time and resources presented a barrier to achieving this. Lecturers reflected upon the reliance on technology in Higher Education which they identified as a particular cause of anxiety for mature students. They acknowledged the potential difficulties in balancing home and university life for mature students. Lecturers believed that mature students demonstrated commitment to the course, but needed timely feedback to develop confi-dence in their ability. Lecturers reported that they themselves had received little formal training in meeting the needs of mature students but relied heavily on both their profes-sional and personal experiences to guide them. Lecturers agreed that the transition into Higher Education presents a number of personal and academic challenges for mature students with induction week identified as a particularly stressful period for all students and therefore in need of a more detailed evaluation.