Publication Details

O'Shea, S. & Stone, C. (2011). Transformations and self-discovery: mature-age women’s reflections on returning to university study.. Studies in Continuing Education, 33 (3), 273-288.


Research has highlighted the challenges that women face as mature-age students in higher education. The challenges are particularly acute when a woman is the first in her family to go to university. Many women begin their journey as students with considerable self-doubt and lack of confidence. They also frequently face an ongoing struggle to find a way to combine their studies with other family responsibilities (Edwards, 1990; Merrill, 1999; Tett, 2000). This article presents the reflections of 18 women enrolled as mature-age students at an Australian university campus. Their triumphs, achievements and self-discoveries, as well as their struggles whilst undertaking their studies, are explored. In presenting the reflections of this group, the transformative nature of these experiences is highlighted, not only for the women themselves, but also potentially for their families, particularly their children. These narratives of achievement and transformation ultimately provide inspiration to other women contemplating such a step as well as insight for academic administrators and teaching staff regarding the significant personal change this decision can engender.

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