Joan Bakewell urges action on part-time students

Baroness Joan Bakewell Baroness Bakewell served as the government's voice of older people from 2008 -10

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Baroness Bakewell is urging the government to back efforts to stem the dramatic drop in part-time students.

The president of Birkbeck, University of London, says higher fees and a failure to communicate new rights to government loans for part-time students has led to a 40% drop in England.

Lady Bakewell says "unprecedented" support is needed to ensure the future of part-time higher education.

The government says it is already working with universities on the issue.

Lady Bakewell says she intends to use her new role at Birkbeck - which specialises in evening and part-time courses and is part of the University of London - to exert pressure on government to support part-time higher education.

She says a high quality university education should be accessible for students for whom the traditional full-time daytime route is not an option.

'Thrives in the future'

"There is a vast segment of people who haven't had the opportunity to access university and there needs to be a greater appreciation of this," she adds.

"Part-time study is crucial for our society. It improves skills and kick-starts new careers - exactly what we need for the economy, employers and individuals during these difficult economic times. In response to the dramatic downturn in part-time students nationwide, unprecedented support is needed now to ensure part-time study thrives in future."

One third of England's undergraduate population studies part-time, and the importance of part-time study for the economy and social mobility is widely recognised.

But it faces a challenging and uncertain future, largely, Lady Bakewell says, because of the government's introduction of higher tuition fees and the failure to communicate the new loan system effectively to prospective part-time students.

Statistics released recently by the Higher Education Funding Council for England show that since 2010, across England, part-time undergraduate numbers have fallen by 40%, while part-time postgraduate numbers fell 27%. Birkbeck says it has seen falls in its own student numbers of a similar magnitude.

Lady Bakewell adds: " I think it is very important to keep the pressure up on government. I certainly intend to be vocal."

As Birkbeck President, she is following in the footsteps of well-known historian Professor Eric Hobsbawm.

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesman said England's world-class university sector had responded well to its reforms.

"There is a new focus on the quality of the student experience and the number of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university is at record levels.

"There are no financial barriers to higher education and according to the World Bank the system is exemplary. We need to monitor closely the changing demand for part-time, mature and postgraduate study, and will continue to do so.

"We are actively engaging with the sector on a number of projects including a Universities UK-led review of part-time study and our communications to prospective students."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    another do gooder

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.


    So you got into college despite being in and out of hospital throughout your teenage years. I think you've kinda proved my point. Your posts contradict each other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    I am a mature student studying an MA at the moment. I started full time but now switched to part time as it gives me extra time to start up my own business as well. I started last year and paid for the course myself after doing my BA Hons a couple of years ago. I think my MA at £3400 is still good value but 9 grand for a BA is disgusting. But its not always about money but more to gain knowledge

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    The Open University fees for new students have gone up a lot, but for those who were already enrolled, they have not.

    People on here claiming that they can't complete an OU degrees because the fees have gone up 500% from when they started aren't telling the truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    133 tc1234
    "prepare for future costs"!?
    Doesn't that make a few assumptions about employment,income,fixed outgoings etc etc,you can have something/anything flagged-up well in advance,does not have an automatic correlation to being able to do anything£ about it though!

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    This country wastes so much of its peoples' talent. It seems that once you're over 25 no profession will take you on. Then they complain they haven't got the skilled staff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Did my Part time Hons over 20 years ago, but even then talk of higher fees to cover the Uni's costs were being muted, so not surprised by the reduction in numbers of today. People need to be paid to do the Lecturering but the cost to the PT student is out of reach. If one looks at the Lect/hours that a Professor actually does then people might be horrified. Maybe its time to time and motion them

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    the state already pays for education up to 18. once you are an adult, you get to choose whether you want to stay in education or get a job. therefore its choice, not a right.

    the problem with any reform is allowing time for people to make adjustments. the only issue i have with tuition fees is that sufficient warning should come for families to prepare for future costs

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    As a part-time OU student (self-funding) I know I wouldn't be able to afford the current fee system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    I did an OU diploma course about 12 years ago (self funded), I remember the fees being a few £hundred. I recently thought about doing some more courses and could not believe the current costs so gave up on the idea.

    There are however virtually limitless resources available for free on the net so as long as you don't want a fancy scroll at the end, it's still possible to get a free education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Working for a degree etc part time using modules is not elite enough. This gov. do not want those who do not conform to the Eton standard- prep, public Alevels and Uni(Russell) are probably plebs not worthy of education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    I am currently a p-t postgrad student. I finished my f-t BSc and wanted to do an MSc, but didn't have the fees. So decided to study p-t and got a p-t admin job to earn those fees. I would really recommend studying p-t, you get so much more from the experience, rather than just rushing it in one year. And, especially as a young person, it adds much to your CV when you go to apply for graduate jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Anyone with any sense would take one of the free online courses. Many give a certificate on successful completion, and a few even offer full credit with you paying only for assessment. The days of students attending classes at university en-mass are numbered. I can see the universities of the future organising and charging only for short workshops, summer schools and end of year assessment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    120 Wei
    Well done!!
    Would guess 10 years from 2013 would be tad harder though!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    im just at the stages of finishing my full time degree its a bit of a joke as i am only in for less than a day a week, it could be part time if im honest. as for work i do 5 days week working in the job ill be in after uni. the uni have given no support whatsoever because of this. The content taught on the 3 year course but could of been done in a year, bucks new uni wanna make money though

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Many years ago as an apprentice I did part time study through day release and evenings leading to an HNC. Paid all my own course fees and textbooks too.
    Few would put the hours in now (and it was a longer working week then, too), especially without a grant, but that study was good enough for me to be more successful than most of the graduates I worked with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.


    "I don't think explaining loans is relevant: we all know that debt is debt!"

    This is the whole point. Student "debt" is only paid when you're earning and based on your salary. If you never earn enough to pay it off then it gets written off.

    How is this like the actual debt from a loan/credit card etc?

    The language of "debt" is the most damaging aspect of the fee changes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    What is needed is an assessment only option to further education. Top rate tuition costs money... however not everyone needs it to attain the relevant level of knowledge.
    But under the current system everyone has to pay for it regardless in order to gain recognized qualifications.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    A lot of children switch off at school and then return to education, as an enthusiastic adult.

    This is the right time to to encourage improved skills and qualifications, the future of the economy depends on high volumes of profitable adult employment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    114 where am I
    Hi,still awaiting your reply ref 111.gerald


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