The Government has outlined the steps it is taking to support part-time learners.
Studying part-time can bring enormous benefits to the individual, to businesses and to the economy. There are over 500,000 part-time students in the UK, who are typically over the age of 30 and looking to upskill or start a new career. Meanwhile, research in 2013 suggested that over 80 per cent of part-time students were employed.
To enable part-time students meet the full cost of their tuition, the Government introduced up-front fee loans for the first time in 2012/13. It is also enhancing the student finance package for part-time students by introducing maintenance loans, equivalent to full-time, in 2018/19. In addition, they intend to extend the part-time maintenance loan to eligible students studying distance learning courses in 2019/20.
Since 2015/16 graduates starting a second honours degree course part-time in engineering, technology or computer science have qualified for fee loans for their course. The Government then extended this from 2017/18 to graduates starting a second honours degree course part-time in any STEM subject.
The Office for Students, the Government’s new independent regulator of Higher Education in England, has a duty to promote choice and opportunities in the provision of higher education. Transfer between courses and providers can also support flexible learning. The Office for Students will have a duty to monitor and report on arrangements for student transfer, and a power to facilitate, encourage, or promote awareness of such arrangements.
Meanwhile, the Government plans to introduce new accelerated degree courses, which would involve two, rather than three, years of study. Later this year, the Government will publish its response to the accelerated degrees public consultation.