Part-time study needs major overhaul says Universities UK, as student numbers plummet

The higher education group Universities UK has called for major reforms in part-time study, following a 40 per cent drop in part-time students numbers between 2010-11 and 2012-13.

The group has published a review of part-time study and mature students, assessing the factors behind the drastic fall in numbers. It has collated answers from over 140 respondees together with oral evidence from sessions with bodies such as the Association of Graduate Recruiters and the National Union of Students.

It identifies what it terms a “perfect storm” of factors including the current economic climate which restricts both household and employer training budgets; the rapidly changing nature of industries from which part-time students are traditionally drawn, such as the public sector; altered demographics and pathways to higher education; and the 2012-13 increase to higher education fees.

Universities UK calls for a national campaign to recruit more part-time students, and says that universities need to improve the part-time student experience. It adds that employer-focused part-time study, designed to meet the economy’s needs, should be boosted.

In 2011-12, part-time students made up 29 per cent of the UK’s undergraduate population. Most part-time students are in full-time employment despite less than one-third receiving financial support from their employer, and 45 per cent are parents with children who are dependent on them.