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 157.

    I obtained my first degree whilst working full time and studying part time. With the same formula of work and study I began an Mphil research degree.with view to extending this to a Phd. This was affordable until the government trebled student fees. I had no choice but to abandon my studies altogether. Further education is increasingly only open to those who can afford it.

  • 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 86.

    Over the last 15 years, I've done an HNC, honours degree and masters degree part-time. In each case, I was lucky in that my employer paid my fees. I seriously doubt though that I would have had the same opportunity, if I was just starting out - given the extortionate rate universities are now forced to charge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Well of course part-time study is falling - it is a natural reaction to the appalling hike in tuition fees and lack of grants for students. Most part-time students are self-funding so it is really a no-brainer that there are less of them. 15 years ago I undertook an MA at my own expense, I would not even consider it today!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    I'm a part time student. I did go full time into uni but was just too burned out not only by the schedule but the whole uni culture. Now I do 10 hours a week uni and work 2 part time jobs (one on a zero hour contract), I live off campus and I have a more flexible and less stressful life


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