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NUS responds to universities UK review of part time and mature higher education

Wednesday 16 October 2013

  • The Government, the higher and further education sectors and funding providers need to fully understand the significant benefits that part time and mature study and improve its provision.
  • There needs to be a collective response from all levels to the challenges that these groups of students are facing.

The National Union of Students (NUS) today commented on a review of part time and mature higher education by Universities UK.

The review states that the numbers of students recruited to undergraduate part-time courses in England fell by 40% in two years (2010–11 to 2012–13) and identifies areas for immediate action.

Rachel Wenstone, Vice President (Higher Education) NUS, said:

“NUS welcomes this report and we are pleased that this issue is getting the attention it deserves. It is incredibly disheartening to see the numbers of part time and mature students decreasing.

The sector took responsibility in analysing the issues facing part-time students and it’s now time for the sector to take responsibility for addressing the problems.

“Though much has been done, too many so-called part-time courses are provided full-time for only half the time, rather than being truly flexible. To truly meet the needs of students who want to work, care, and learn at the same time, there would need to be some serious thought on how degrees are designed.

“Part time and mature study is incredibly valuable and brings many social and economic benefits to the UK. Recruiting part-time and mature students, students with strong ties to local communities and employers, is a powerful way for institutions to demonstrate they are of benefit to society and run in the public interest.

Despite these benefits, unfortunately at the moment there is just no incentive for institutions to increase their numbers of these valuable student groups.

“Last year NUS co-produced a report with Million+, Never too late to learn, which showed that whilst returning to education is considered to be a valuable experience for mature students, it is one which still entails a number of challenges for mature students, including accessing information about higher education, coping with returning to study, integration and involvement, and finance.

“The government’s decision to partially reverse ELQ policy demonstrates they are well aware that reversing this fall in numbers cannot be done by the sector alone: government needs to take meaningful action to give potential part-time students the confidence to apply, and universities the ability to support them.

“The Government, the higher and further education sectors and funding providers need to fully understand the significant benefits that part time and mature study and improve its provision.

This obvious decline cannot be swept under the carpet any longer - there needs to be a collective response from all levels to the challenges that these groups of students are facing.”


Notes to editors

For press enquiries please email the press office at pressoffice@nus.org.uk or call 07866695010. 

National Union of Students is a voluntary membership organisation which makes a real difference to the lives of students and its member students' unions.

We are a confederation of 600 students' unions, amounting to more than 95 per cent of all higher and further education unions in the UK. Through our member students' unions, we represent the interests of more than seven million students. 

The Million+ and NUS report “Never too late to learn” explores the characteristics and experiences of mature students studying first degrees in the UK.