Learning / Adult education

Getting back to education as an adult learner

By lowie trevena, Monday Dec 16, 2019

Returning to education is a great way to retrain, start a new career or develop a skill. It can be daunting, however, and many courses often require a long commitment to achieve a degree at the end of the programme.

For those wanting to return to academia but not wanting to commit to a degree-based qualification, a range of learning institutions across the city offer alternatives to the traditional academic route.


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Bristol’s two universities, as well as several colleges and even the council, provide training and courses in a range of disciplines, all on a part-time basis.

UWE Bristol offers a huge number or part-time courses. Although these are mostly Bachelors, Masters and PhD programmes, they do provide other part-time learning opportunities.

The university offers a short course in Counselling, as well as Early Years Teaching Status, which can be taught as a professional and short course. For anyone wanting to further their career skills, UWE Bristol also run the Professional Development Award, a flexible accreditation completed through evidencing work-based learning.

UWE Bristol offer plenty of short courses

The University of Bristol also offer short time courses alongside part-time undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Designed to prepare prospective students of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, they are intended for adults and those from non-traditional education backgrounds. The courses currently on offer are Ways Into History, Reading English Literature, Mastering English Literature, Changing Education and Understanding Society. The five courses cover everything from the city’s role in the slave trade to making sense of the country’s complex education system.

For anyone just wanting to dip their toe in the water, the University of Bristol also run taster workshops in English and Creative Writing and a number of scientific and creative workshops at the Botanic Gardens.

Bristol’s college also offer higher education programmes. The City of Bristol College run Access to Higher Education diplomas in Science, Business Studies, Social Science, Health & Social Care and Humanities. These Level 3 courses take a year to complete on a part-time basis and can be a great way to learn new skills, develop a blossoming interest or retrain for a new career.


City of Bristol College run a range of higher education programmes. Photo by Freia Turland

South Gloucestershire and Stroud College, which has numerous campuses in and around Bristol, offer a huge array of part-time courses in everything from ceramics to hairdressing. They additionally offer part-time GCSE study in English and Maths, taster courses in areas such as plumbing and bricklaying and Level 3 and Level 4 qualifications in counselling skills.

Additionally, the college offer professional courses such as Advanced Diplomas in Accounting, Human Resources Management and Procurement & Supply.

For those wanting to develop their skills in the current workplace, or even gain new skills for a change of career, South Gloucestershire and Stroud College also offer part time work-based courses, such as certificates in understanding young people’s mental health and diplomas in adult care.

Bristol City Council also offer a range of adult learning courses at a low cost. As well as more vocational programme, such as film studies, gardening and wine appreciation, they also offer more academic courses.

All taking place on a part-time basis, adults can develop their skills in languages, maths, art history and philosophy, among other disciplines.

Bristol City Council offers learning in the community

There is a vast array of courses on offer across the city. From anyone wanting to develop a new skill to having a complete career change, one of the many learning institutions across the city can help.

Main photo by Freia Turland

Read more: Getting creative with the city’s crafty courses

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