Partners in learning?: A qualitative study of the intimate relationships of partnered mature students in post-secondary education




Mature students, Post-secondary education, Intimate relationships, Academic success, Educational administration


Mature students in post-secondary education face unique challenges negotiating both academic and familial responsibilities beyond those of their traditional-aged peers. The current study examined the bidirectional influences between intimate relationships and post-secondary study. Twenty-eight semi-structured interviews were conducted with heterosexual, cisgender, partnered, mature students attending various universities in southern Ontario, Canada. Through a thematic analysis, the research indicated that school had a number of negative impacts on mature students’ relationships; however, there were also some positive impacts. Intimate relationships were also described to have an impact on academic success. Mature students with supportive partners described being able to focus on school and perform better, while students with less supportive partners described difficulties allotting the amount of time to school that was required. Recommendations are made for post-secondary educational institutions to acknowledge the unique challenges faced by partnered mature learners and offer targeted support services.

Author Biographies

Tricia van Rhijn, University of Guelph

Assistant Professor, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition

Robert Mizzi, University of Manitoba

Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Administration, Foundations and Psychology


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