The Open University has welcomed moves by the UK Government to ensure that the importance of part-time study and distance learning are fully recognised in the biggest shake-up for decades in higher education in England.
Peter Horrocks, Vice-chancellor of The Open University, welcomed proposals that would require the new regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), to include explicitly options for part-time and distance learning when promoting student choice.
The OfS is being established by the Higher Education and Research Bill, which begins its final parliamentary stages in the Lords on March 6.
The OU has been arguing for greater recognition of the role of part-time study in the new regulatory framework and its importance in helping employers to close the skills gap.
Mr Horrocks said a series of proposed Government amendments to the Bill, unveiled by Jo Johnson, the Higher Education Minister, were a “big step in the right direction”.
The Government also proposed charging the OfS with monitoring and raising awareness of the development of a system of “credit transfer” – which would allow students more easily to switch between universities and courses.
Mr Horrocks said in an email to OU staff:
“We do want to ensure that our unique place in the HE system is recognised in the reform process.
“So behind the scenes we have been relentless in our message to Ministers at Westminster, the Department for Education, MPs and Peers that the reforms must benefit all students. It is essential that the OfS supports and promotes an inclusive and diverse higher education sector that offers the flexibility and support needed by students of all ages and from all backgrounds.
“We welcome clear evidence that, over the nine months since the Bill began its parliamentary journey, the Government has listened.”
As the Bill completes its parliamentary stages, the OU will continue to press for further changes to require education providers to record offers, acceptances and completion rates for students over 21 and people with disabilities. On credit transfer, which the OU regards as essential to increasing mobility across the age range, it hopes to build on the Government’s proposed amendment with a tangible and direct step forward for students so that they get an annual report on the academic credit they have obtained.