Recent figures have shown the number of students undertaking part-time courses has dropped significantly since 2011.
Student admissions to the OU have fallen by 28 per cent since 2011-12. In 2011-12, 242,000 students enrolled with the OU, but in 2016-17 the figure dropped to just 173,927.
The majority of the drop occurred across England, where students have been subject to their fees tripling from £3,225 to £9,000 a year. 80 per cent of OU students work full or part-time alongside their studies, and now face typical degree costs of around £18,000 over six years.
Conservative peer Lord Willetts, who was the Minister of State for Universities at the time of the change, has conceded that there is a “problem”. He stated that “some level of public funding” should return for mature students and the issue should be addressed in the Government’s review of post-18 education and funding.
The review will look to ensure that post-18 education is accessible to all and supported by a funding system that provides value for money. It will also look to incentivize choice and competition in post-18 education.
Dr Richard Wilson OBE, TIGA’s Chief Executive Officer, said:
“The UK’s higher education system is first class, globally recognized and has provided employers with highly skilled workers for generations. However, we must ensure that mature students are not being left behind.
“We are facing shortages in digital skills. Part-time courses and training can play a huge part in upskilling mature students and increasing the number of people with the right skills.
“We need to make part-time study more attractive for mature students. TIGA will be submitting a response to the post-18 education and funding review to ensure that higher education is truly accessible to all.”