The Open University has called on the Government to make sure it considers the full range of study options available to students as it develops its higher education policy.
In November 2015, the Government published a Green Paper on the future of higher education, with a focus on giving students greater choice and encouraging inclusivity. The document includes a commitment that “anyone with the talent and potential should be able to benefit from higher education.” It also states that the Government is looking for “a level playing field for all providers.”
However, in its response to the Green Paper, the OU has expressed concern that the data and assumptions underpinning the Green Paper focus primarily on young, full-time students, without taking into account the value of other flexible learning options, such as part-time, especially for mature students.
The Prime Minister has set a target to double the number of disadvantaged people going to university by 2020 and increase the number of BME students by 20% over the same period. One in five undergraduate entrants in England from low-participation neighbourhoods study part-time, and mature students make up 38% of total undergraduate students from those same neighbourhoods in England . The OU is therefore concerned that choice for these students will be compromised if part-time and mature learner provision is not fully considered at the outset in Government proposals.
Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, Peter Horrocks, said:
The Government’s overall goal to drive social mobility and open up access to higher education is to be welcomed. However, figures released this week are yet another reminder that time and time again, failure to properly consider part-time study early on in policy development can have serious – if unintended – consequences. The kind of flexible, supported learning offered to part-time and mature students by institutions like the OU is vital to helping those students the Prime Minister has talked about to realise their potential.
The Open University has produced an overview document, outlining its views on the issues raised in the Green Paper.