A report by the Department for Education into widening participating in higher education found that the percentage of state-educated pupils going on to universities and colleges in 2013/14 fell to 62%, from 66% in the previous year. Leading figures from across the education sector are calling on the Government for an urgent review and action to address the financial barriers into Higher Education.
Much of the discussion is around the traditional transition from school to full-time university, which is quite disconnected to the flexible routes into higher education that now exist. For those aged 16 or 17 years of age it is difficult to make a decision to take on such volumes of debt that will affect the rest of their lives. The Open University is an advocate of lifetime learning and of a cohesive flexible education system that engages schools, colleges, universities and employers working together to improve opportunities regardless of background.
A speech by Peter Horrocks, Vice-Chancellor at The Open University at the Forum for Access and Continuing Education (FACE) Annual Conference in June, stressed the need for broader thinking to meet these challenges,
“If the Government is serious about both saving money and driving social mobility, then supporting part-time study has to be on its list of priorities. Part-time and distance learning is highly cost effective as fees are lower and students don’t incur maintenance costs. Those who earn and learn receive immediate improvements to their skills which they can take straight into the workplace. They also pay taxes while studying and pay back their loans in full measure, as they are mostly earning.”
For more information on widening participation see John Butcher’s, Senior Lecturer/Deputy Director Access Curriculum at The Open University article entitled ‘Social mobility isn’t just about 18-year-olds: adults need life chances too.’
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