By Emily Longworth | Apr 11 2012The first Conference for Mature Students, which was organised by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) in conjunction with Mature Students Ireland (MSI), the Board of Irish College Societies (BICS), and DIT Old Skool Society took place on March 24th in DIT Bolton Street.USI President Gary Redmond deemed the event an overall success. He emphasised the importance of providing support for mature students studying in Ireland, “One of the criticisms that USI often gets is that it doesn’t represent all its members, and that we focus purely on undergrad ‘traditional’ students, so this is one of the first steps we’ve taken to try and rectify that situation.”The conference was open to all mature students studying in Ireland and featured a series of workshops taking place throughout the day, which aimed to provide useful information for mature students, as well as allowing networking opportunities between colleges. “It’s really important that we’re out there representing the interests of the mature students … because often the issues affecting mature students aren’t the same as the issues affecting undergraduate students.”Redmond explained the growing importance of such events for mature students in Ireland, as their numbers throughout the country are rising, “Given the current economic crisis there are more and more mature students returning to education trying to up-skill and re-skill.“Because of the knowledge-based economy we’re trying to build, we want to instil this ethos of ‘lifelong learning’ … The number of mature students has continued to grow over the past few years, and I think it’s a very positive step that both USI and students’ unions across the country can take to help mature students out.”Redmond was happy with both the smooth running of the event and the turnout, which he approximated to be around fifty students. The ten euro admission charge covered most of the costs for the day, including a lunch and dinner for participants.Issues addressed at the conference included grants, budgeting, time management, parenthood, and tips for running a successful mature students’ society. Speakers came from USI, MSI, MABS and Reachout.com.Redmond expressed hope that the event would be run again in the future on a larger scale.