The collapse in part-time undergraduate study since 2008-9 does not show that people are turning away from taking degrees part-time, a new Higher Education Funding Council for England analysis shows.
Between 2008-9 and 2012-13 part-time undergraduate entrants fell by nearly 50 per cent to 157,700.
But Hefce statistics released today show that entrants taking “first degrees” (which includes honours, ordinary and integrated master’s degrees) part-time fell by just 13 per cent during this period.
Instead, the vast majority of the fall is due to students moving away from “other” part-time undergraduate courses – including foundation degrees, diplomas, Higher National Certificates and Diplomas and institutional credit – where numbers have fallen from 231,000 to 104,500.
According to a statement from Hefce chief executive Madeleine Atkins, the drop in these kinds of students is “stark”.
“Explaining the declines, though, is not simple,” she said. “A wide range of factors have affected these courses over a long period of time. The challenge in the future will be to support and develop high-quality higher education that meets the needs and aspirations of a diverse range of potential students and employers.”
The analysis also shows that the number of students entering foundation degree courses, both full and part-time, peaked in 2009 before falling back “sharply”.
However, it cautions that some of the fall in “other” undergraduate courses could be down to changes in how institutions record data, although it is “highly unlikely” this alone could explain such a big drop.