Posted on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 at 9am
by Tony Ellis. See more of my posts here.
There has been a dramatic decline in the numbers of entrants to part-time courses over the past couple of years. We need to understand why, and to support action where necessary.
This is one of the more eye-catching observations of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in its report, published last week, on the impact of the funding changes introduced by government in 2012. “Dramatic” is certainly an apt enough description for a national decline in part-time admissions of 40% since 2010 and, for some, there is no need to look beyond the introduction of £9k fees in order to “understand why”.
Happily, the picture here at Leeds does not reflect these startling statistics; our part-time undergraduate programmes continue to recruit well. Our experience has always been that there are lots of different factors at play for adults in deciding whether to embark on a part-time university course. Finance is certainly an important consideration, but there are many others which are just as critical. Will I have time for study? Will a degree help my career prospects? Am I the kind of person who goes to university? We know that the best way to help learners to work through these questions is to provide lots of opportunity for contact with staff of the Lifelong Learning Centre through our outreach and recruitment activities and to give access to professional Information and Guidance (IAG).
As for finance, there is still plenty of myth-busting to be done. There are some real benefits in the new system for part-time learners: no more up-front fees and re-payment terms that do not put pressure on those with low incomes and suspend payments whenever personal income drops below £21k. There are also generous packages of financial support available from the University so that no-one should be prevented from studying here because of financial hardship.