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  • Is there a future for part-time study? Posted on 30 October 2013

    The future of undergraduate part-time study is at a crossroads.  With a decade of slow decline followed in the last couple of years by a 40% drop there are questions being posed by universities up and down the country – is there a future?

    Last week UUK released their report ‘The Power of Part-Time’[1].  Many who responded to their call for evidence said that the decline was due to ‘people deciding not to undertake further level study’.  This maybe true and the report describes a ‘perfect storm’ of the economic environment restricting household and employer budgets, demographic changes and the new funding regime.  I am not convinced this is the full story. 


    Many universities have closed their part-time units, and for those that haven’t if you go onto their websites you have to be an expert in search engines to find what you are looking for.  You just can’t find the courses – that’s if you have got so far as working out how you are going to finance it. 


    Part-time study is critical in so many ways.  How else can you get into higher education when you are older and have so many other responsibilities?  But it also challenges social inequalities.  44% of part-time learners are the first in their family to access higher education and 29% are from low-income groups (Callender 2011).  And there is a knock-on effect with nearly a third of part-time graduates reporting that their children or family had become more interested as a result. (Callender and Wilkinson 2013).  So if Clegg wants to make a difference let’s look at part-time properly and that includes employer incentives, a clearer funding system and pressure on higher education. 

    Universities must make part-time and mature student provision central to their thinking.  Ideally this should mean that there are no separate units but it integrated into the ways and means of departments and faculties – but that is going too far at the moment!  Let’s just agree that part-time students are not an add-on. 


    HEFCE and OFFA’s national strategy for access and student success will include part-time and mature learners as an area for institutions to address.  They’ve recognised it as an issue let’s hope universities (and the Government) listen. 




    [1] http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/highereducation/Pages/PartTimeExecutiveSummary.aspx

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