“My first day at law school as a mature student was the scariest moment of my life,” says Clara Jennings. “I have always been a confident and outgoing person, but I felt like I was stepping into the unknown. I feared I would be one of the oldest in the class and that people were going to judge me.”

The 34-year-old single mum of four had spent her entire adult life in full-time employment, working as a hairdresser first in Ireland and then in her home city of Birmingham. She had always been interested in the legal profession but never felt she had the opportunity to pursue that passion – until her employer fired her while she was pregnant with her youngest child in 2015. Law students: how to start practising before you graduate

Read more An employment tribunal followed and she won, with judges unanimously agreeing that she had been unfairly dismissed. The experience, though traumatic, gave her a thirst for the law. In 2018 she finally took the plunge, quit her full-time job and enrolled to study an LLB in law at Arden University.

Jennings was terrified at returning to education for the first time since leaving school at 18, and it has been a constant struggle to balance her studies with family life and a job. The course design, which involves a mixture of online distance learning and traditional face-to-face classes at a campus in Birmingham city centre, has helped her fit the degree around other commitments. But she admits the greatest challenge has been mental rather than physical.

“When you are younger, you don’t have all the doubts that come with the responsibilities of being a parent,” she says. “I am constantly questioning myself – am I doing the right thing for my family? But I am halfway through a degree now and I know I am going to achieve something.”

Time is a limited resource for many mature students, who may have extra responsibilities such as childcare and, because they are less likely to be eligible for student financial support, a job. The problem is particularly acute at […]

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