Lifelong crisis spreads as ELQ decision forces further closures

March 19, 2009

More universities have confirmed they are cutting back on lifelong learning courses because of a government funding decision.

The University of Bristol is scaling back its lifelong learning provision, while a letter to staff at the University of Reading has announced its decision to close the programmes offered by its School of Continuing Education.

Both cited the introduction of the Government's rule denying students funding to study for equivalent or lower-level qualifications (ELQs) to those they already hold.

Following a review, Reading's senior management board has recommended that its School of Continuing Education stops enrolling students on its public programmes from the end of the summer term. Professional management programmes will be merged with the university's Henley Business School, while its Careers Studies Unit is set to be transferred to another institution.

In the letter, Christine Williams, pro vice-chancellor for enterprise, said: "While some universities closed their public programmes on hearing the Government announcement (on ELQs) more than a year ago, and others have subsequently done so, we have spent the past 12 months trying to find a way around it, and have ultimately concluded that there is no financially sustainable way to keep them open.

"The hard fact is that the university cannot afford to subsidise these courses to the tune of half a million pounds a year."

Meanwhile, Bristol's faculty of arts is withdrawing some lifelong learning provision at the end of the academic year. Subjects affected include drama, history of art, historical studies, music and philosophy.

In a letter to staff, Robert Fowler, dean of arts, says the faculty will lose £500,000 as a result of the ELQ policy and that the decision had been reached "with deep regret".

As Times Higher Education reported last week, the University of Manchester is shutting its Courses for the Public programme this summer owing to the ELQ change.

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com

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