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Mature-Age Student’s Opportunities as a Matter of Social Inclusion in the Higher Education

Inga Zeide1, Gunta Kalvāne2
1 Liepaja University, Latvia
2 University of Latvia, Latvia

Abstract. Digital revolution, pandemics, market-orientation, and massification in higher education, as well globalization – a worldwide challenge in economics, politics, societal structures, and health systems – completely changes the “age landscape” in universities. Over the last 20 years, universities around the world have seen an increase in the number of non-traditional or mature-age students and are facing complex and challenging problems. In the literature these “non-traditional” in terms of age students are called mature-age students (by some scholars also second chancers, independent students, adult learners). Social inclusion equation is highly complex concept, including variables as class, ethnicity, gender, age, subject of study, location etc. In this article, we will focus specifically on the age of students as a variable of social inclusion. The article is motivated by the aim to find out what are the challenges faced by mature-age students in the context of social inclusion to ensure equal opportunities. Purposive sampling is being used, participants with “intensive” experience – 4 master-level students in the age from 40 to 49 from two Universities in Latvia and one University of United States of America. Individual, semi structured, in-depth interviews as a data collection method is being used. Narrative analysis has been chosen as an extension of the interpretive approach within the social sciences. The study concludes that the most significant group of challenges related to the age of students, both in Latvia and in the US, are socio-emotional challenges. Three out of four respondents have experienced emotions such as “feeling like old people, pressure, uncomfortable, rusty, behind”. The inclusion of mature-age students should be on the university agenda, alongside other social equity issues in higher education.

Keywords: adult students, higher education, lifelong learning, mature-age students, non-traditional students, social inclusion.

Inga Zeide, PhD in Education, works at the Liepaja University (Latvia), Faculty of Pedagogy and Social work as assistant professor and research assistant, and also is principal of a secondary school in Liepaja. She has worked in the field of adult non-formal education for 15 years and has represented and managed Berlitz Inc. Language Centre in Riga, Latvia. Her main research interests are adult education, lifelong learning and educational leadership. She is one of Buffalo program (in cooperation with University at Buffalo, NY, USA) members in Latvia.

Dr. geogr. Gunta Kalvāne has been working at the University of Latvia, Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences as lead researcher and assistant professor. Currently also working as senior expert at Study Development and Governance Improvement Programme in LU. Her main research interests are education for sustainable development (ESD), STEM especially geography and climate education as well bioclimatology. She is also one of Buffalo program members in Latvia.

In: Human, Technologies and Quality of Education, 2023. Proceedings of Scientific Papers = Cilvēks, tehnoloģijas un izglītības kvalitāte, 2023. Rakstu krājums
Riga, University of Latvia, 2023. 796 p. Ed. L. Daniela
ISBN 978-9934-36-116-6