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Government must urgently address decline in part-time and mature learners, says report

Maintenance grants for part-time students, expansion of degree apprenticeships and credit transfer are just some of the recommendations aimed at addressing the decline in part-time and mature learners in the Education Select Committee’s report Value for Money in Higher Education.

The report published today has been strongly welcomed by The Open University for recognising the need for part-time study to support the economy and social mobility. The report examined value for money to the tax-payer and student; quality of HE; skills; social justice and graduate employability.

The OU has a huge role to play

Professor Mary Kellett, Acting Vice-Chancellor of The Open University said, “It is no secret that there has been a significant decline in part-time student numbers in recent years and, as the UK’s largest provider of part-time distance learning, we have felt this more than most. This report echoes much of what we have been championing in terms of accessibility, as well as the positive impact of part-time study on skills, society and the economy. These recommendations are a very welcome step towards recognising the contribution of part-time learning.”

Adding, “For almost 50 years The Open University has proudly offered open access education to all, with a delivery method that allows many of our students to work while they study. Currently 75% of our students are in part or full-time employment, with around 55% of our students coming from the most deprived areas of the country. The value of part-time goes way beyond financial impact and the OU has a huge role to play in the realisation of that potential.”

Generation of lost learners

In a recent report published by the CBI and UUK that claimed a generation of ‘lost learners’ were missing out on the chance to develop the skills at university that employers and the UK economy need, because of the cost and time it takes to study part-time. In a joint statement to government the UUK and the CBI recommend many of the recommendations in today’s report:

  • Evolution of the Apprenticeship Levy into a more flexible ‘Skills Levy’ so that it can cover a wider range of training, including more flexible study.
  • Greater support for students moving between work and study across their lifetimes, with the education system supporting shorter and more flexible courses.
  • More collaboration between employers and higher and further education, to help learners progress on to qualifications between A-levels and a university degree.

About Author

Rachel is Senior Manager, Media Relations team. She is a skilled communicator with more than ten years’ experience in Public Relations. She holds a BA (Hons) Media Production from the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside. Rachel specialises in stories from the Faculty of Business and Law, students, academic research, BBC programmes, technology, innovation and skills. Rachel has three large dogs, two children and enjoys growing her own veg.

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