Part-timers deserve loans and grants, says v-c

May 1, 2008

The Government must start taking part-time students seriously and offer them the same support as full-timers, the vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University has said.

"There is an idea in central Government that all part-timers are either supported by their employers or doing basket-weaving," said Janet Beer.

Part-time students are not offered the interest-free loans and maintenance grants available to full-time students.

The difference between full and part-time students often comes down to an individual's honesty, Professor Beer said. "There are plenty of students listed as full-time who are working in part-time jobs. People who declare themselves part-timers tend to be looking after children."

Student support for part-timers could be funded by stricter means-testing of student loans and grants, she said. Student loans to cover living expenses are means-tested, but those to cover tuition fees are not.

"The Government is wasting money in giving loans to students who put them in ISAs (individual savings accounts)," she said.

The professor thinks there should be a national bursary scheme that is equally accessible to full and part-time students. "If the Government wants to crack the issues around widening participation, it needs to remove the barriers to applying anywhere in the country," she said. "You have to be very clued up to understand the details of the financial packages available at each institution."

The vice-chancellor revealed that she had been seeking a position on the board of a private company, but that informal discussions with headhunters had suggested that such an appointment was possible but unlikely.

"As universities we fall over ourselves to get accountants, property developers and others with private-sector expertise on our boards. I would have thought that the private sector could benefit from someone with public-sector experience."

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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