The Government will fail in its aim of creating a learning society unless it goes well beyond the Dearing recommendations on part-timers, the secretary of the Labour backbench education and employment committee has warned.
Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South, has written to ministers, saying: "While I welcome the various recommendations made by the committee in relation to part-timers, they signally fail to address the divide between public provision for part-time and full-time funding.
"The Government must take this opportunity to put access to all higher education study on a more equitable basis to secure its policy objectives."
Mr Marsden argues that Dearing does nothing to address the problems of part-time students who also have jobs and that tuition fees are their main financial barrier.
He suggests that they be admitted to the loans scheme, and that the Government should examine the possibility of tax relief - an option not examined by Dearing. This should apply both to individual students and to employers, and could be incorporated into the national scheme of individual learning accounts expected to be introduced in the forthcoming white paper.
Mr Marsden sees this as "a potentially cost-effective method of increasing expansion" which might attract "significant private funds over time from sources which would not otherwise have contributed".
He questions Dearing's reasoning that no extra help is needed because 35 per cent of part-timers have tuition fees paid by employers.