Returning to education? Derek Barter of Maynooth University explains all

By Anne Sexton - Last update

Get Daily news and updates directly to your Email

Adult learning or returning to education as a mature student can seem daunting. You may worry that it has been too long since you hit the books. You may not have had a great experience at school. Or perhaps you don’t consider yourself academically inclined. We spoke to Dr Derek Barter, the Continuing Education Co-ordinator of Maynooth University’s Department of Adult and Community Education. He gives us the lowdown on heading back to education as a mature student before Maynooth University’s next Open Days on 24 and 25 November.

Learning is learning, isn’t it? How does adult education differ?

The Department of Adult and Community Education in Maynooth University takes a very different approach to teaching and learning than a lot of people will have encountered through their previous educational experiences. We value the knowledge that people bring with them from their everyday life and work with the student to bring them through the learning process.

Could you explain?

Mature students have life experience that can be very valuable. Anyone who has been working, either formally or as a full-time parent learns skills along the way. These could be budgeting, time management or conflict resolution. In addition, being older gives you a different way of approaching problems. All of this can be very useful when returning to education.

When you are at school learning is a very top down process. This sounds more like an equitable exchange.

Yes, it is. Some of the key words that adult educators use in their work are respect, democracy and transformation. Putting these ideas into practice in a learning environment is exciting but can also be a challenge to people returning to education after a period of time and especially if this is their first venture into higher education.

What would you suggest for someone who is nervous about returning to education?

My first advice is to find out more about it.  Making contact with a university, if you’ve never done it before, can be a daunting task but in our department in Maynooth University we are very happy and well used to speaking with people who are thinking about coming back to education.  The Open Days in Maynooth on the 24 and 25 of November are perfect for Adult students who are curious about what’s available and what is their best option. I will be giving a number of talks on the Night Time degree in Local Studies/Community Studies and our other Part-time courses.  I will also be working with our colleagues from the Mature Student access office on alternative routes into higher education and the adult learner experience.

How to apply

Applications for part-time evening degree (MH803) Local Studies/Community Studies through the CAO is open now. A talk on MH803 plus a CAO application process will take place on Friday 24 10.50-11.20 and Saturday 25 11.50-12.20.

For Certificates, Diplomas, CPD, please click here. You can also contact Kay Loughlin on 01 708 6062 or 

For more information, see Maynooth University’s profile.

Anne Sexton

Bright ideas! Meet Tracy Aspel and her Creative Institute
DBS open evening takes place on Tuesday 5th December


  1. Tee otoole 18/01/2022 at 15:04

    I already have completed Bookkeeping Manual and Computerised Level 5 QQI Award from GRETB where I received a Distinction. I would like to continue further with this course and am wondering if you have a course where I can further my career so I can apply for a job after completing the course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We'd love to send you the latest news and articles about evening classes, further learning and adult education by email. We'll always treat your personal details with the utmost care and will never sell them to other companies for marketing purposes.

Comments and Reviews Policy