Part-time discrimination

May 15, 2008

The Higher Education Funding Council for England is right to indicate that women and older people will be hardest hit by the withdrawal of funding for equivalent or lower qualifications ("Women hardest hit by cuts to ELQ cash", 8 May), as will part-time students. These categories are not, of course, unrelated. Institutions with part-time students have already found themselves with substantially reduced pro-rata resources. For Birkbeck, where almost all our students are part-time, this is of course significant. Although there is no such thing as a typical part-time student, 60 per cent of part-timers are women, and more than a quarter of part-timers are over the age of 40. Older women learners are already one of the most disadvantaged groups with regard to formal learning opportunities. Women returners will be hit especially hard.

The policy makes no sense, and penalises the very learners the Government purports to encourage: those who have been out of the job market for a while as well as those in employment who wish to reskill.

Sue Jackson, Professor of lifelong learning and gender Birkbeck, University of London.

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