Get on course

It's January, so it's time to learn a new skill 

It’s a cliché, but January really is the perfect time to start something new. So, if you’ve long dreamed of learning a language, indulging your creative side, or picking up new skills to boost your career or take it in a different direction – why not seize that fresh-start feeling the new year brings and make 2018 the year that you enrol on a course or evening class? 

There’s a veritable banquet of options here in Cambridge. Our city is a world-famous seat of learning with a rich tradition of education – but that extends far beyond the rarefied world of the ancient university. In fact, there is a cornucopia of adult educational opportunities available, ranging from the artsy to the academic, from the esoteric to the eminently practical. Take an evening class in forensic science, shimmy your way through a ballroom dancing session or two or master bicycle maintenance: every imaginable learning yen is catered for across the city’s varied adult learning institutions. 

The benefits can be life-changing too, reaching far beyond simply relieving boredom or passing the time. Studies have shown adult learning to boost confidence, well-being and feelings of fulfilment and happiness, providing students with a new zest for life – that’s before we even get to the potential social, physical and professional benefits.

Here's a taster of what's on offer. 

Cambridge Cookery School  

Invest in your culinary skills and you’ll be reaping the delicious rewards for years to come. Based just off Hills Road, Cambridge Cookery School offers a packed schedule of classes from their modern and spacious kitchens, with something on offer for all ages and abilities.

On 25 January, Embrace Cooking! will help total kitchen newbies gain key skills and confidence in home cooking, covering eggs (perfect scrambling and foolproof poaching), baking a sponge cake, Thai curry and more.

There’s also a lesson in knife skills, sourdough masterclasses, plus classes on the cuisines of Mexico, South East Asia, Italy, Japan and more over the next couple of months alone. 

All classes include a good feast at the end and a recipe pack to take home.

Sawston Adult Education 

From Indian dance to an Introduction to Writing Fiction, there’s all sorts on offer at the Adult Learning Centre at Sawston Village College.

Get creative at courses on pottery, dressmaking and watercolours, learn a language, cook up a storm in a variety of culinary classes and boost your tech nous with lessons in staying safe online and getting to know your iPad. 

There’s also a whole crop of fitness and well-being sessions that are ideal for getting you active this new year. Starting in January there’s fitness yoga (Tuesdays 8pm), Indian dance (Wednesdays 7pm), Pilates (Wednesdays, improvers 7pm and mixed ability 8pm), t’ai chi (Mondays, improvers 6.30pm and beginners at 8pm) and tap dance (Mondays 7pm). 

Adult Learning and Skills Centre

Whether you’re keen to boost your employment prospects, get career advice, support your children in their learning or simply learn something new for the fun of it, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Adult Learning and Skills service can help. The centre, based in Cambridge Central Library, offers a range of qualifications and support including maths, English, IT functional skills and employability skills, as well as courses for adults with learning difficulties and disabilities. They also work in local schools and children’s centres in the city and surrounding areas providing family learning programmes.

“On top of gaining new skills and qualifications,” says Susannah Lewis, operations and performance manager for the Adult Learning and Skills Centre, “our learners say their courses helped to increase their confidence and independence, benefitted their health and well-being, developed their social life and friendships and helped them to find future learning and work – 92% of learners say they would recommend our provision to friends and family.” 

 For details on what’s available, visit 

Madingley Hall Institute of Continuing Education 

Madingley Hall’s Institute of Continuing Education makes a Cambridge University education available to all, offering a dynamic programme of courses for mature students in an inspirational setting. Whether you opt for a short-term course or longer-term qualification, you’re taught by leading academics in your chosen field, and given a high level of support throughout your studies.

The range of subjects on offer is delightfully varied, with short courses in everything from codebreaking to reading classical Greek. There are also options for part-time undergraduate, master’s and postgraduate qualifications. The next open day is on 17 March.

Adult Learn and Train at Parkside Federation of Academies

At venues across the city, Adult Learn and Train offer a huge array of subjects taught by a team of knowledgeable and enthusiastic tutors. With 148 courses to choose from, you’re sure to find something which sparks your interest, be it in arts and crafts, modern foreign languages, computing and photography, mind and body, cookery or career progression.

There are plenty of new courses for 2018, and the offerings are nothing if not varied, ranging from forensic science to make-up skills and vegan cooking. Courses run during the daytime and in the evening as well as across some weekends. The spring term starts on Monday 8 January and the next weekend courses are on 3 and 4 February.