Very few part-time undergraduates receive government financial support, while those funded by their employers are the least in need of financial help, a study has found.
Futuretrack: Part-time Students, published today, is the biggest study in this area to date, and tracks nearly 4,000 part-time undergraduates from across the UK.
It reveals that 15 per cent of students receive a government fee grant, while 20 per cent get a course grant. Moreover, for the few who do receive government aid, it rarely covers the costs of study.
Of those who receive a fee grant, two in five have tuition fee costs higher than the amount of their grant, with the shortfall averaging £576. Of those who receive a course grant, more than two-thirds have course costs that exceed the grant, with an average shortfall of £729.
The Higher Education Careers Service Unit (Hecsu) study, conducted by Birkbeck, University of London and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, found that 41 per cent of part-time students received financial help from their employers. However, firms offer the most support to staff from high- or middle-income households.
Mike Hill, chief executive of Hecsu, said government funding for part-time study was based on the assumption that students were working or employers would help.
"The research not only demonstrates inadequate financial support for part-time students, but that the assumption underpinning government policy is flawed," he said.
"Relying on business contributions for part-time study puts its 'fairness' in jeopardy. It means that course selection is driven by the potentially short-term views of the employer rather than the more personal long-term view of the student. Government funding should ultimately look to balance this."
Meanwhile, evidence submitted to Lord Browne's review on fees and funding shows that the financial inequalities between full- and part-time modes of study extend beyond student support, meaning some students could find themselves up to £14,000 a year worse off if they opt to learn part-time.