27 Jan 2010

Birkbeck and the OU make joint submission to HE Review

Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor, The Open University

Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor, The Open University

The Open University and Birkbeck’s joint submission to the Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance highlights the undervalued contribution of part-time students to the economy and to serious funding problems that the sector faces in the future. The Review, led by Lord Browne, is currently examining the introduction of the Higher Education Act 2004 and its impact on universities and students.

The joint submission to the review argues that the legislation has created a two-tier system in which full-time undergraduates receive tuition fee loans and generous grants but part-time students do not, despite making up 39% of the undergraduate population. Some institutions are able to charge higher fees and generate greater income from full-time students resulting in clear incentives to grow full-time programmes and subsequently run down part-time courses.

Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University said: “The disparity in funding between part-time and full-time students runs counter to three key national policy objectives: creating flexibility in higher education, raising skill levels and widening participation. Our submission highlights these issues.”

“The part-time sector makes a valuable economic contribution to UK Plc, particularly through re-skilling. Quality is something we will never compromise on, but without changes to the current funding system the range and number of professionals we are able to help train and re-skill will have to reduce drastically.”

"With part-time students accounting for almost 40% of all undergraduates, it is important that their voices are heard," said Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck. "With this joint submission we highlight the issues that really matter to part-time students - such as not being able to access up-front loans, and only receiving limited financial support from the government."

In their submission, both institutions argue that it is not just part-time students that require additional financial support but also the universities which are facing significant funding shortfalls in the near future.

Martin Bean will appear in front of the Review Panel this Friday, 29 January, to explain how the changes introduced as a result of the 2004 Act have affected the Open University and the part time sector in general.

The Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance was launched on 9 November 2009. The Panel is tasked with making recommendations to Government on the future of fees policy and financial support for full and part-time undergraduate and postgraduate students.


For further information contact:
Paula Feery / Kath Middleditch 01908 652580/655026 or 07540 668963/07771 810098 /

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