New campaign champions part-time study and calls for action

A campaign backed by Birkbeck to promote the benefits of part-time study is launched today

A campaign backed by Birkbeck to promote the benefits of part-time study is launched today by an alliance of universities, businesses and unions.

The launch of ‘Part-Time Matters’ follows a dramatic 40 per cent overall downturn in students enrolling for part-time undergraduate courses. The campaign aims to highlight some of the often unknown benefits of part-time study to the economy, society and the individual.

The initiative, launched to coincide with Adult Learners’ Week (18-24 May), is supported by a number of organisations, including Universities UK, Birkbeck, The Open University, The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, the National Union of Students and many others.

The campaign

An early day motion tabled by Frank Dobson, Labour MP and Fellow of Birkbeck, in support of the Part-Time Matters campaign has already gained 24 signatures from MPs.

The campaign is being championed by distinguished journalist and Labour peer Baroness Joan Bakewell, President of Birkbeck. Baroness Bakewell said: “Part-time study is vital for the economy and social mobility. I am delighted to support the much-needed work of the Part-Time Matters campaign to highlight that part-time study has huge benefits, is often overlooked, and now faces an uncertain future.”

The Part-Time Matters campaign is calling for individuals and organisations to:

Key facts about part-time include:

  • One-third of all higher education students – more than 700,000 students – study part-time, and it is vital the importance of this mode of study is recognised
  • There was a 40 per cent fall in students starting part-time undergraduate courses between 2010-11 and 2012-13, according to Higher education in England: Impact of the 2012 reforms – a recent report published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England
  • There are now 105,000 fewer students studying part-time undergraduate courses – a figure equivalent to the population of Basingstoke
  • Many potential students have been deterred from signing up to part-time courses because of confusion surrounding eligibility for new student loans, following the increase in tuition fees in England in 2012

Benefits of part-time study

Recent research demonstrates the significant benefits part-time higher education creates for the economy, employers, society and the individual:

  • Levels of employment stability are particularly high for part-time students with 81 per cent working throughout their study and two years later, according to Futuretrack: Part-time higher education students: The impact of part-time learning two years after graduation
  • Employers value part-time study as a good model to develop work-readiness in graduates and in providing existing employees with the skills and knowledge that can improve productivity and efficiency, according to BIS Research Paper 68: Expanding and improving part-time higher education
  • Graduates said part-time study helped them develop as a person (88 per cent), improve self-confidence (78 per cent) and increase their overall happiness (55 per cent), according to Futuretrack: Part-time higher education students: The impact of part-time learning two years after graduation
  • The social and economic necessity for an expanding higher education sector, including making university places available to more mature and part-time students, has never been greater, according to University challenge: How higher education can advance social mobility

Universities UK is carrying out a review into the reasons behind the drop in part-time course enrolments and will recommend what should be done about it. The review will be published in October 2013.