Let's get some perspective. For decades, anyone seriously concerned with more equitable access to higher education will have had two items at the top of their agenda: more places, and a system of support that gave fairer treatment to part-timers compared with full-timers. The expansion has been going on now for some time. It is only in the past year, though, that we have seen a government address the central issue of support for part-timers. This is a key plank in any strategy for lifelong learning and deserves a much warmer reception.
In Scotland, a Pounds 6 million package promoting part-time study was announced last May, with support for students and for institutions offering part-time programmes. Result? A 10 per cent growth in part-timers in Scottish universities. Loans are now, for the first time, being made available to part-time higher education students in England and Wales. Those who deride the limits set to the amount of loan seem to me to be fixated on the traditional full-time degree with its cost pattern. At least part-timers - almost invariably adults - are getting access to funding as well as to places.
There is never enough money. I would wish to go further than the government has done, with a wider range of courses being eligible for support. But it is directly addressing the historic concentration of support on full-time students, one of the most educationally inequitable as well as fiscally regressive forms of expenditure.
Tom Schuller Professor of lifelong learning Birkbeck College, London