The Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson MP, has used a keynote speech to highlight the importance of life-long access to higher education. Addressing the annual conference of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) at London’s Regent’s University, Mr Johnson said that “the student journey can only be regarded as a success if it is truly open to anyone, from any background, to take part.”
His comments come as the government consults on changes to the higher education sector. Just last month, ministers unveiled a new Higher Education and Research Bill, designed to update the regulation of the university sector, and give students greater access to information and more choice about how and where they study.
In his speech, Mr Johnson referred to some of the policies which had recently been introduced to help reverse a decline in part-time study, but agreed the government could go further.
“In a flexible and competitive labour market, we must continue to ensure there are opportunities to gain new qualifications at all stages of life.
“If we want to continue to prosper as a great knowledge economy, we need to ensure that there are viable opportunities for people to gain qualifications in later life.
“The future of our higher education system lies not just in spreading existing best practice, but also in the development of innovative delivery methods – such as degree apprenticeships, accelerated degrees and the ability to accumulate credit and switch course” he said.
The Open University has been campaigning in recent years to introduce new policies to encourage more people into part-time study, which has seen a 40% decline in the last five years following changes to the way universities are funded.
His comments were welcomed by the Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, Peter Horrocks, who has been a vocal campaigner for reforms to encourage part-time and flexible study.
He said “While we welcome the positive steps the government has already taken towards making part-time study a more attractive option, it’s encouraging to see the Universities Minister agreeing that there is more still to be done. In particular, the focus on being able to transfer credit between institutions and find new ways into the university system would make it much easier for students from all walks of life to realise their full potential.”
Earlier this month, The Open University announced it was to offer students a new route onto some of its courses, including the flagship MBA programme from the OU Business School, by taking a series of short online courses on its social learning platform, FutureLearn.
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