The Scottish Office is pressing for an increase in part-time education amid calls for a better deal for part-timers in terms of student support and course quality assurance.
Ed Weeple, Scottish Office Education Department undersecretary, told the Scottish credit accumulation and transfer scheme (Scotcat) annual conference at Glasgow Caledonian University that despite the Government's consolidation policy, ministers were not seeking controls on part-time courses, and had asked the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council to promote part-time study through their funding methodology.
SHEFC offers an annual part-time incentive grant, which this year totalled Pounds 1.8 million, awarding an extra 5 per cent in funding for part-time full-time equivalent numbers.
The conference, organised by the Higher Education Quality Council on behalf of the Scottish Advisory Committee on Credit and Access, heard that the SOED recorded more than 47,000 part-time students in higher education in 1993/94, a per cent increase from 1980/81 and a 13 per cent increase since 1989/90.
But Peter Bush, convenor of SACCA, said the growth in part-time courses ensured that an ever-increasing proportion of students were excluded from the "admittedly creaking" system of funding for full-time students. The system at present was very definitely skewed against part-timers who were not eligible for mandatory awards, loans and access funds.
Scotcat allowed courses to be tailored directly to students' needs for personal, professional and career development, to employers' needs for a dynamic workforce, and to the economy's needs to meet national education and training targets.
* Wales is poised to introduce a similar scheme to Scotcat this spring. The Department for Education and Employment has been funding a project, Implementing a Credit Framework in Welsh Higher Education, which has won a largely favourable response.