23 Jun 2015

New Figures Highlight Concern Among MPs Over Drop in Part-Time Study

UK Houses of Parliament

UK Houses of Parliament

Government can help reward hard-working people by supporting
part-time study, says OU Vice-Chancellor

New figures have revealed high levels of concern among UK Members of Parliament over the state of part-time study. In a survey carried out by ComRes on behalf of the UK’s largest university, 73% of MPs say they are concerned by the decline in the number of students in part-time Higher Education.

Changes to funding for part-time study and other policy changes over recent years have led to a significant drop in the number of people signing up to study on a part-time basis, particularly in England. Almost 200,000 fewer students were studying part-time in England last year compared to 2009/10 – a drop of 41%. Addressing a reception for MPs and other parliamentarians at the Houses of Parliament, the Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, Peter Horrocks, will call on policy-makers to take action to address the decline.

Peter Horrocks said:

“This Government has talked much about supporting those who work hard. Right now there is a golden opportunity for ministers to deliver on this by realising the kind of social and economic benefits part-time study creates. While it is encouraging to see MPs sharing our concern over the challenges facing our sector, now is the time to turn this into action. I look forward to working with the Government and across the sector to identify cost-effective ways more hard-working people can access the rewards part-time study can offer.”

Mr Horrocks will urge politicians to think about what steps could be taken to arrest the decline in part-time study. For example, he said the new Government could help more people succeed in life by reversing a decision which came into effect in 2008/9 which prevents students accessing loans if they are studying for a qualification that is equivalent to, or lower than, one they already hold. The ComRes survey suggests this view is shared by almost two thirds (61%) of MPs, who agree that adults with an equivalent or lower qualification than an undergraduate degree should be able to receive a loan to re-skill by undertaking further Higher Education. The former Universities Minister, David Willetts, started this process in 2013 with the introduction of limited exemptions to the rule.

The event at the Houses of Parliament is set to be attended by MPs and researchers from across the political spectrum, along with the University’s Chancellor, Baroness Lane Fox. The reception also gives MPs and researchers their first chance to meet Peter Horrocks after he joined the OU as Vice-Chancellor at the start of May. Prior to this he was the Director of the BBC World Service.

Methodology Note
ComRes interviewed 103 MPs on the ComRes MPs panel between 21st May – 18th June by self-completion postal questionnaire and online. Data are weighted to be representative of the House by party and region. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables can be located at

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