Leader: Hope in half-measures

October 21, 2005

The extra support for part-time students outlined by Bill Rammell on this page has been given a cautious welcome by those who have been lobbying for measures of this sort. But even he does not pretend that the package is comparable with the assistance offered to full-timers. Fees (which may well rise) will still have to be paid upfront and grants will be relatively modest. It is a start, but Mr Rammell's claim that no one should now be deterred from going into higher education is optimistic.

The problem for ministers is to channel more money to the many deserving cases without encouraging employers to cut off the support that they provide. Part-timers have been given a raw deal for as long as a system of grants and/or loans has existed. This week's announcement left some hope that their situation could be revisited but, if so, it will surely have to be as a joint initiative with employers. With a tight spending review in prospect next year, there is an obvious danger that this may be as good as it gets.

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