Posted on Friday, 20 November 2015 at 11am
by Tony Ellis. See more of my posts here.
Addressing the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning Annual Seminar on 19th November, Professor Les Ebdon from the Office of Fair Access (OFFA) spoke of the importance of part-time study for widening participation and committed OFFA to campaigning on this issue.
This is very welcome. From our experience at Leeds we know that finance is a major barrier to participation for adults from under-represented communities, and would argue strongly that extending financial support for maintenance would be a key measure. This point was raised directly with Les Ebdon at the UALL seminar and has also featured in the response from the Association which I drafted on its behalf:
UALL warmly welcomes the emphasis which Professor Les Ebdon, the Director of Fair Access, is placing on the significant role that part-time study plays in widening participation to higher education. This is an area that has seen a dramatic decline in numbers over the last five years and which is known to provide crucial opportunities for adults who have not progressed to higher education earlier in life.
Whilst it has been encouraging to see increases in the participation of young, full-time students across all social groups, the gap between the least and most favoured remains stubbornly large. This represents a terrible loss, year-on-year, and one which can only be addressed if people can come to higher education as adults. For many, this means part-time study.
In his robust analysis of part-time higher education at UALL’s November seminar, Professor Ebdon highlighted the importance of sustained pressure to alert policy-makers to the damaging crisis in part-time higher education and proposed the following key areas for action:
- reform of the eligibility criteria for financial support for undergraduate study so that it becomes available to those wishing to take short units of learning and those who already hold higher education qualifications;
- tax incentives for employers, coupled with appropriate drivers in the public sector, to support the up-skilling of the workforce through part-time higher education.
This stance is endorsed fully by UALL. The Association would also urge that financial support for maintenance, currently restricted to those studying full-time, should be extended to their part-time counterparts. We know from the experience of our members that this is critical for facilitating participation for adults who, though working, are in households where income is low and vulnerable.