Document Type

Journal Article


Common Ground


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science/Systems and Intervention Research Centre for Health




This article was originally published as: Ayres, R., & Guilfoyle, A. (2013). Social support and sense of community for mature age women studying psychology. The International Journal of Adult, Community and Professional Learning, 19(4), 29-43. Original article available here


The topic of mature students is of current interest in Higher Education, particularly in reference to predicted increases in part time mature students. This paper explores experiences of support for women aged between 40-49 years studying psychology in a professional learning context. The purpose of the study was to investigate what social supports are important in the experiences of mature age women who have decided to return to university. Within a descriptive phenomenological approach (Moustakas, 1994) to understand experiences of support, the women took part in a semistructured interview. Women reported their needs for academic support, social support and a sense of community within the university. Recommendations for social support through design of supportive learning environments and transition programs are discussed in the context of universities encouraging diverse student populations, attrition rates amongst mature age female students, and students experiencing a complex relationship around expectations driven by their motivations, their ability to cope with the academic workload, and managing family roles (Scott, Burns & Cooney, 1998).

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