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Age is a protected characteristic under the UK Government's Equality Act 2010.  

The Equality Act 2010 deems it unlawful to discriminate against a person due to their age. The Act defines age by reference to a person’s age group and when it refers to people who share the protected characteristic of age, it means they are in the same age group. An 'age group' can mean:

  • people of the same age or a range of ages

  • a wide group of ages such as ‘people under 50’

  • a narrower group of ages such as ‘people in their mid-50s’, or people born in a particular year

  • relative ages, such as ‘older than me’ or ‘older than us’

  • ages linked to actual or assumed physical appearance which may bear little relation to chronological age such as ‘the grey workforce’.  

A person could belong to various age groups, for example, a 19 year old could belong to groups that include ‘young adults’, ‘teenagers’, ‘under 50s’, ‘under 25s’, or ‘19 year olds’.  


What can universities do? 

The University is committed to ensuring that nobody is treated unfairly because of their age, because they belong to a particular age group, because someone thinks they belong to a particular age group, or because of the age of someone they are linked with (such as a parent, child, partner or friend).  

It is a common assumption that all university students are young and just leaving home. However, this is not an accurate supposition of university population. At St Mary's, 26% of our undergraduate population are classed as 'mature' (which means over the age of 21 at the start of their studies), and just under half of these (12%) are aged 26 or over at the start of their courses. On PGCE programmes, we have many older, career-changing students: approximately 48% of our PGCE students are classed as 'mature' (over the age of 25 when they start their studies) and almost 20% are aged 30 or over.   

No matter the age of our staff and students at St Mary's, our core values of inclusion and respect require us to ensure that all must receive equal treatment regardless of their age or age group.