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

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham