Martin Bean, Vice Chancellor, The Open University
The OU and Birkbeck are today calling for part-time students to get the same entitlements to financial support as full-time students. Part-time students make up 39% of all undergraduates yet, unlike full-time students, they are not eligible for loans to pay their tuition fees. In their second joint submission to the Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance, the two dedicated providers of part-time education argue for the creation of a level playing field.
The Open University and Birkbeck propose a single, integrated system of institutional funding and student support in England that draws no distinction between modes of study. All students, full-time and part-time, should have equal access to fee grants or loans (depending on household income) and all students taking courses of 120 credits (i.e. full-time study) should also qualify for maintenance loans to help with living costs.
Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University said: “Part-time students deserve a first class education and a fair deal. More than ever before, the nation needs a strong and vibrant part-time sector. It brings people from non-traditional backgrounds into higher education and provides the knowledge and skills that a modern labour force needs. These are key national priorities and they deserve urgent attention. We must act now to ensure part-time provision remains sustainable and open to all.”
Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck said: “The Review Panel, led by Lord Browne, has already stated that it recognises that student financial support for part-time students is not sufficient, especially when compared to the support provided for full-time students, and the current system presents skewed incentives at a time when flexible and innovative provision is important. It is time that part-time students are no longer the Cinderellas of the HE sector. The Conservative-Liberal coalition can correct the mistakes and inequities of the past and finally deliver a higher education system that is fair for all.”
Key Points from The Open University and Birkbeck’s joint submission
o Nearly two-thirds (64%) of part-time undergraduates study for vocational and professional qualifications compared with just over a tenth (11%) of full-time students. Half a million people a year study undergraduate courses in English universities and colleges on a part-time basis.