Cuts threaten feeder route to part-time study

Cutting teaching subsidies could "kill off" evening-class courses, which are a key route into part-time degrees, a conference has heard.

October 20, 2011

Speaking at the event - A New Deal for Part-time and Distance Students - in London on 12 October, Bill Jones, an expert in lifelong learning, said increased access to loans for part-time students would not compensate for an 80 per cent reduction in teaching funding.

Professor Jones, a member of the executive board of the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning, said the price of some courses could increase fivefold when government subsidies were removed.

He said that if a university charging the full £9,000 tuition fee to full-time students provided a one-term, evening-class course of two hours a week at pro rata cost, students could expect to pay £750 in 2012 - rather than the current £150.

"We are pricing out (everyone except) those who can pay a lot," said Professor Jones, an honorary chair in lifelong learning at the University of Leicester.

"Once these areas of provision disappear, it will be almost impossible to get them back."

Speaking to Times Higher Education, Professor Jones said: "No sane person is going to pay that much - you are killing off the market. This kind of provision is a toe in the water. These are often the students who come back to do a full degree and get a first.

"It matters to students if these courses disappear. But does it really matter to universities?"

Teaching grants for part-time students will drop from £410 million to £85 million by 2014-15. They will have access to loans to cover fees only if they are taking first degrees for the first time.

Part-timers must also study for at least 25 per cent of the intensity of full-time courses to be eligible for loans.

Ed Lester, chief executive of the Student Loans Company, said the impact of higher fees on part-time students remained uncertain. "We do not know what the take-up (of loans) will be. It is a real headache for institutions."

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