14 Mar 2013

Mature learners must be given opportunity to transform their lives through higher education, says The Open University

In its report into the impact of the 2012 changes to the Higher Education, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) reveals a “significant decline” in part-time entrants at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels (a 40 per cent fall for part-time undergraduates since 2010-11 and a 27 per cent drop for postgraduates).

The Open University’s Director of Government & External Affairs Rajay Naik said:
“The Open University strongly supports the concerns raised by Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of HEFCE, regarding the fall in recruitment to part-time courses and the drop in mature learners.

“This is a clear signal that, despite government support to entice older students to study in HE, there is an urgent need to do more – so that mature learners of any age, method of study or background – are given the opportunity to change their lives through education.

“We need to buck this downward trend and safeguard the study opportunities of such a major and valuable sector of the adult population.

“Addressing the impact of the 2012 fee changes can only be done by focusing efforts not just on young people entering higher education, but by concentrating efforts on those mature students who can re-skill, upgrade, secure new employment or gain qualifications to give them a better chance of success and of benefiting from the power of learning.”

Notes to Editors:

• The OU invested over £4 million to communicate the new loans system to mature and poorer prospective students in 2012/13.
• 71% of OU undergrads have no previous HE qualifications.
• In the past five years, OU part-time enrolments for students aged 25 and over increased by more than 17%, compared to a 23% decrease at other institutions.

About The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 250,000 current students, including over 15,000 overseas.

The OU was rated the top university for student satisfaction in last year’s National Student Survey, and has been in the top three universities every year since the survey began in 2005.

In 2010/11 it had a 93% satisfaction rating. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.
In the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) The Open University was ranked in the top third of UK higher education institutions. More than 50% of OU research was assessed in the RAE as internationally excellent, with 14% as world leading.

Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 26.7 million visits, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded more than 60 million downloads. The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, James May’s Big Ideas and The Money Programme.

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