THE DEARING report "seriously fails to recognise the lifelong learning agenda" in its proposals on student funding, the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education says.
It falls down in its proposal not to give equitable treatment on financial support to part-time students, "whose needs have been repeatedly identified as priorities", according to NIACE.
NIACE suggests fees should be charged to part-timers on a pro-rata basis, with loans available for all students, and the bar on loans for the over-50s removed.
To ensure accessibility, fees should not be charged to unemployed learners, part or full-time, and the same thresholds should apply to loan repayments for all students, so that loans are not repayable by those entering retirement on low incomes.
NIACE says that while it recognises, as Dearing points out, that such measures would represent a significant extra burden on funding, "we do not believe that expediency should outweigh equity".
NIACE suggests that eligibility for loans should be means-tested, so that whatever resources are available are distributed fairly.
* The Dearing report lacks a "strong and coherent vision of the Learning Society of the future", says the Society for Research into Higher Education. The society criticises the way in which the committee "appears to have chosen to work from the status quo rather than to develop a clear view of what post-compulsory education might look like in 20 years' time".
* The Dearing committee did not go far enough in placing higher education firmly as part of a lifelong learning system, the Council for Industry and Higher Education has said. There should have been greater recognition of the different needs of mature and part-time learners in the committee's report.
The CIHE was also disappointed with the "limited view" of the scope for interaction between business and academia, and with the "narrowness" of the skills agenda presented by Dearing.