The benefits of returning to study as an adult

Do have a love of learning? Perhaps you should consider adult education.

Portrait of a smiling woman by other mature students using computers in the computer room

Do have a love of learning? Will you read anything you can get your hands on, begin a new hobby every week or devour TED Talk videos and podcasts like they’re going out of style? Perhaps you should consider adult education.

Adult education isn’t just about professional development – it’s a chance to develop your personal interests and expand your knowledge. And for people who are approaching or already in retirement, adult education is a wonderful way to spend time on something meaningful and engage your passions, both long-held and newly acquired.

Whether you’re interested in taking on a full-length or short course, here are four reasons why studying as an adult is a great thing:

Education allows you to pursue new dreams
Children are known to have vivid imaginations because they’re always absorbing new and interesting information about the world. When we become adults, society directs us to focus our attention on subjects that lead to careers, so our creative pursuits often take a backseat. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed a long career as an accountant or a teacher, but have always loved the idea of being a jeweller or opening your own café. Returning to education encourages us to explore new concepts and create our own ideas around them.

Education keeps you engaged and happy
We’re not meant to live out our lives trapped in one place, doing the same thing each day. People who broaden their understanding about the world, learn new skills and engage in new activities are often happier and feel more satisfied with their lives than those who’ve spent decades doing the same kinds of work.

Education helps you meet new people
One key benefit of returning to study is the opportunity to meet new people. You never know with whom you might connect – chances are you’ll run into like-minded people who share your passions. You might find your professional network expands or you just get to make some new friends.

Education allows you to become involved
Perhaps you’re taking a course on how to run your own small business or learning the basics of pottery throwing. Either way, armed with your new knowledge and skills, you’ll have a renewed capacity to become more active in your local community. You might volunteer your administrative skills at your local library or book a stall at the weekend market to sell your handicrafts.

So, what’s next?

If you’re interested pursuing adult education in creative arts, languages, business, computer skills or anything else under the sun, here are some resources to help you get started:

Centre for Adult Educationoffers hundreds of skill-based short courses over a range of disciplines, including hospitality, fine arts, journalism, wellbeing, computing, trade skills and digital design. It is known for having accredited and nationally recognised training, and has established government and industry partnerships.

University of the Third Age (U3A) – with a particular focus on people over 50, U3A is an international organisation emphasising education as a life-long pursuit. It offers online short courses across Australia, operating through a number of educational intuitions. You can choose to study a range of humanities and science-based subjects, from history and world affairs to creative writing and human biology.


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    5th Apr 2016
    Pleas rewrite the article telling me what it all costs. That's a major hole in what's there now.
    5th Apr 2016
    Barak, I can only give you an idea of U3A costs. Because every U3A is independent and autonomous the fees do very but most U3As, where you go and attend classes with other people, have membership fees of between $25 to $50 per annum and you then go to any classes you wish. Some might also have a small fee for each class.
    There is a Virtual U3A --- U3A Online Inc. --- which offers all its courses online. The cost for this is $25 for twelve months and once a member you can do any of the over 50 courses, as many as you wish, as Independent study. Sometimes a course is offered, online, with a leader and when that is available there is an additional cost of $5 for that course. Great for people unable to get to a regular U3A.
    5th Apr 2016
    TAFE is the best alternative. They have Certificate 2 & 3 and Diploma courses available for everyone. As a pensioner you only need to pay about $165 (that was in 2015).
    I did PC assembly course (Certificate 2) on part-time bases and it was great.
    Now I am fixing, repairing and building new PC for family, friends and friends of friend.
    I am considering to do networking for next year......
    5th Apr 2016
    If you're interested in online adult learning can I suggest
    It's based in England, but has courses from universities around the world, including Monash, QUT, various universities in England, South Africa, Japan, Korea, several European countries and many more. A wide range of courses are offered, including writing fiction, alternative energy sources, anatomy, medical conditions/illnesses, cyber security, Shakespeare, history, geography, psychology - the list goes on. There are no exams, but there are tests throughout, usually multiple choice but it can vary depending on the course. You can buy a Certificate of Achievement provided you complete a significant portion of the course (currently 80%) and pass all tests/assignments. Courses run, on average, from 2 to 10 weeks, but if you don't complete the course in that time, it remains available for you to complete whenever. Of course, there'll be no feedback from lecturers or other learners outside the designated time frame. Learners come from all parts of the world, and I've "met" many interesting and very friendly people, several of whom I communicate with regularly.

    Best of all - ALL courses are free.

    You'll be responsible for internet charges, of course, and if you want the aforementioned Certificate, you'll need to pay for that - approximately Stg$29. (As I have no plans to re-enter the workforce, I haven't bothered to buy any Certificates.)

    I live in a rural area of Australia, and I've found these courses ideal for keeping my brain active and learning more about current issues, (e.g. alternative energy, fracking, geopolitics, etc.) from people other than those with a barrow to push. It's also interesting to interact with people from countries all over the world, and learn about their culture and their issues, many (but not all) of which are similar to ours.
    5th Apr 2016
    U3A is established in most suburbs, and is incredibly good value. Annual fees range from about $45-$60. The only costs on top of that are items required for particular course....I.e., if you chose an art subject, you would pay extra for paints, paper, etc.. If you chose badminton, you'd buy your own racket, etc.
    Classes are usually weekly, run by experienced members on a voluntary basis....many are ex-teachers.
    Try it, and discover a whole new world of learning, fun, and friendship!
    5th Apr 2016
    There is indeed a U3A Online but there are also hundreds of local U3As spread across Australian cities and rural areas. They are all autonomous independent bodies so rather than being an international organization with a uniform format, U3A is an international education movement and all the local U3As which it inspires vary in how they operate and what they offer. My local U3A is currently offering 29 courses and interest groups and members can do as many as they like for the annual $25 membership. In South Australia we use the motto "Staying active: mentally, physically and socially". We try to cover those 3 aspects because that is what keeps people living independently, in their own homes for longer. So your local U3A might teach serious stuff like computing and languages, fun stuff like bridge and mah-jong, as well as physical such as a walking group or exercise class. Some U3As just concentrate on having a really good list of visiting speakers. To find a U3A near you, go to: If you have a talent or knowledge to share, they always welcome new tutors.
    8th Apr 2016
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    12th Apr 2016
    [email protected] offer free courses in a great range of subjects. I did world music, astronomy, game design, writing for the web, chemistry, chinese language and culture, psychology and midwifery. All just for fun and to expand my mind. Then I discovered ALISON Education, based in Ireland, they have languages, computing and a whole range of courses too numerous to list -- have a look!!. Quality of teaching is wonderful, way better than some of the uni courses I have done.
    12th Apr 2016
    Oops, a typo - it's actually

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