QUALITY IN THE SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES AT THE ENTRY TO A PROGRAMME OF STUDIES
Real life and learning needs. Firstly, the need to learn is more fundamental than the mere solution to a problem or a project for career development. Secondly, because the course is related to their work, the "user" is often seen as someone with clearly defined expectations. However, although the majority of adults entering a university have a plan, most of them do not have clear and precise expectations; they are hoping to find new directions for enquiry and development. Thus the challenge to the university in accommodating mature students goes beyond taking his or her plans into account. Just as when shopping, consumers feel the need to "buy" (in this case to learn), they may also be very responsive to new stimuli, may follow an impulse, and may change their mind about what they actually want and need. The possibility of change should therefore be taken into account when advising students about their studies at the outset (however such advice is provided), and when they are being tutored during the course of their studies.
The process of engagement. There are two sides to this: the individual's and the institution's. The mature student should be able to clarify his or her real motives for coming to university during an interview conducted by a competent counsellor. The object is not to direct or select, but to help individuals prepare for the learning process and relate it to their own professional, social and private situation. This is the beginning of the learning contract. On the institutional side, the presence of adults in the university should reinforce the acceptance of AP(E)L in order to recognise knowledge and skills acquired in professional and private life. This process of accreditation should encourage mature students, whether graduates or not, to come to university. Its implementation depends on a determined effort to introduce a genuinely adult-orientated policy at all levels within the institution from the Rector, President or Vice-Chancellor down.
Demands of the training system. National systems vary in the bureaucratic demands placed on the mature student. Funding and support systems can be complex and entail obligations of various kinds, particularly paperwork that can be very time-consuming and/or off-putting. The degree of clarity and accessibility in this aspect of continuing education can encourage or discourage a potential student, as well as contribute to success or failure in obtaining the financial support and other resources needed.