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Planning Retirement Online

Academic Adult Education

Academic adult education can be undertaken at many different levels, from degrees down to courses in a village hall for fun. Some continuing adult education courses are very expensive and some are very cheap. We need to choose one that suits us: what we want to achieve, what we can afford and what we think we'll enjoy.

Guide to 'Adult Education'. Content Links

Probably the most expensive way of getting some academic adult education is to do an Open University (OU) degree. For a full degree, most people study 60 credits a year for 6 years. 60 credits currently (2017/18) cost £2864. Therefore a full degree will set you back £17184. It's slightly different for Scotland and Wales, but you can check it all on the website: The OU, although it is essentially a distance learning organisation, does provide tutorials and summer schools for its students, so there is also a social side to it. Nor do you have to do a degree, so have a browse through the website.

If you think that distance learning is for you, but you want to do something a bit less onerous, then maybe the National Extension College (NEC) is for you. Through the NEC you can study A levels and GCSE's on a distance learning basis. They generally cost between £400 and £500 for A levels and between £300 and £400 for GCSE's. Go to their website to find out more, at

If you go to Google and type in the name of a local university, you might well find something that they offer, through their extra-mural department, that appeals to you. Generally, universities will offer part-time degrees, public courses during the day and in the evening, public lectures and even public concerts sometimes. During the student vacations, they may even run 'learning breaks', where you go for a long weekend and spend the time learning an aspect of history or whatever.

Birkbeck College, part of London University, is very much geared to older students and runs many of its continuing education classes in the evenings on a part-time basis. Have a look at the website and see if there is something for you at Birkbeck.

A major source of academic adult education is the adult education programmes run through local councils. They're what we used to call 'Evening Classes'. However, if we have retired, we don't need to go in the evening but can take advantage of the day-time classes that they run! Councils work in partnership with other providers of adult education to make available a wide range of courses. so Google 'Adult Education (or Adult Community Learning as it is now known) in......(wherever it is that you live)' and browse through the web pages to find something that Product Detailsappeals to you.

There is also the Workers Educational Association (WEA). It has charitable status and there are about 400 branches throughout England, split into 9 regions. There is also a Scottish branch that runs courses in over 200 locations. There are also sister organisations in Wales and Northern Ireland. Go to Learn with the WEA and find out where your local branch is based and what courses are available. Then, if you type in your post code you'll be able to see what's on offer in your area. It's an excellent organisation and one that is worth looking at.

Learndirect is a government-sponsored scheme in which the adult education courses are all done on a computer, either at a Learndirect centre or at your home. It's probably fair to say that the courses they offer that will attract most people in later life will be their computer courses, where you can improve your knowledge and skills. However, there may be other subjects that also interest you. The courses are very cheap, they may even be free for you, so go to the website to find out what's available and where your nearest centre is.

For a whole range of free online courses, go to our Guide to Adult Education The BBC offers many free courses that will suit people at all levels and with very different interests.

You may also find local adult education courses that are run by schools or interest groups. If you Google 'Community adult education in...(followed by where you live)' you will probably get a list of such initiatives. Also, Google your local village or town website to see what else is happening.

Now read the other pages of the Guide to get a feel for what's available in adult continuing education before you decide what is best for you.

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This Guide to Adult Education is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team. As well as writing on retirement matters Dave is Training Director at LaterLife and responsible for the content and continuous improvement of LaterLife's Retirement Courses.
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