A chance to rethink the current model

February 12, 2015

Ministers and the higher education community are rightly asking tough questions about quality assurance and the safeguarding of public funding now that private providers are offering degree courses (“Greg Clark pledges action on private college quality”, 5 February).

But the opening of the market to alternative providers also gives us the opportunity to rethink the “leave home at 18 or 19 and study full-time at university” model. Had excessive caution prevailed in the 1960s when an alternative model of higher education delivery was proposed by Michael Young, The Open University would not have been given a chance. In that arguably less risk-averse decade, we had the imagination to do things differently. As a result, more than 1.5 million people across the world have studied at higher level, most of them adults who would not have been able to do so without The Open University’s flexible approach.

As Times Higher Education reported, the overall rise in undergraduate applications in 2014 masks a decline in both part-time and mature applicants (“Undergraduate applications hit record number, says Ucas”, 30 January). Nonetheless, about 40 per cent of students are now studying part-time.

For many young students, meeting new people and moving away from home is an important part of the university experience. But that’s not true for all, such as those who are not socially confident and some with a disability. The Sodexo-Times Higher Education University Lifestyle Survey 2014 found that 19 per cent of students were living at home in 2013 – six percentage points higher than in 2008, before university fees rose. For others, the challenge of degree-level study is one to be confronted in their twenties, thirties or beyond.

For all undergraduates and postgraduates, the design of the future quality assurance framework for higher education needs to be informed as much by the ability to accommodate innovative models of delivery as by the guardianship of public funds and the quality of the student experience.

Peter Bradley
Chair of trustees
Open College of the Arts

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

A group of flamingos and a Marabou stork

A right-wing philosopher in Texas tells John Gill how a minority of students can shut down debates and intimidate lecturers – and why he backs Trump

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands