Last year alone the number declined by 8 per cent. This is not just bad news for the individuals who miss out; society at large will be the poorerby Claire Callender / June 30, 2017 / Leave a comment
Tuition fees were in the headlines again recently, thanks to Labour’s pledge to abolish them in the run-up to 8th June. But nearly all the stories grabbing the spotlight are about young full-time students. Issues about part-time students and the challenges they face often go unnoticed. This is a big problem, for they are severe.
Within the last six years, the number of part-time undergraduates starting a degree at an English university has fallen by 61 per cent. Last year alone the numbers declined by over 8 per cent—the seventh successive year there has been a drop—and this academic year part-timers made up only 20 per cent of all undergraduate entrants. The fall has been greatest among older students, those wanting to do “bite size” courses, and those with low-level entry qualifications—all typically “widening participation” candidates.
Make no mistake: this is a crisis. Part-time study is important for universities because it can provide a more flexible, diverse higher education system while broadening access. And it is crucial to society at large: it can enhance social mobility, increase productivity and drive growth. Skills development via part-time study helps employers too. It minimises absence from work, with individuals investing their own time and money in work-related study.
Crucially, it is vital to the individuals who undertake it, who want to develop, maintain and improve their existing skills. It can serve as a lifeline for people who cannot afford to give up work to study full-time, or who look after their children during the day—perhaps while a partner is at work.