The NUS has called for a review of current government policy regarding part-time student funding, following the release of a damning report by the million+ group of universities.
The report, released in response to £900 million cuts to the higher education budget, proposes alternative ways of getting the higher education system through the recession, without “bringing it to its knees.”
Pam Tatlow and Les Ebdon, Chief Executive and Chair of the million+ group, said: “It would be a sorry legacy of the recession if a failure to invest in higher education in the future reduced, rather than enhanced, opportunities to study at university.”
The 2006 Higher Education (HE) Act introduced new rules, under which the majority of part-time students are forced to pay their university fees upfront. Unlike full-time students, they receive no government loans to assist them.
According to the report, this omission has had “predictable and serious consequences” for part-time students.
“The majority of part-time students study at less than 50% of a course per annum, meaning very few students are eligible for any fee grant.” NUS report calling for a review on government policy regarding part-time student funding
Enrolment in part-time courses has declined. Non- completion rates have drastically risen as well.
The minimal grants available for part-time students are means tested and based on the intensity of the course. Funding is only provided for students studying more than 50% of full-time course.
The report claims that “the majority of part-time students study at less than 50% of a course per annum, meaning very few students are eligible for any fee grant”.
The report calls for part-time and full-time students to be “treated equally in a single, unified and simplified system”.
The issue was brought to public attention after the intervention of the NUS.
The NUS President, Wes Streeting, described the report as “very valuable and timely”.
Although he claimed that some university leaders had used the recession to attack the student support budget, he complimented the million+ group of universities for “attempting to redress the serious inequality and hardship that exists for part-time students.”
Streeting continued: “The NUS agrees with million+ that we should give part-time students a fair deal by abolishing up front fees and offering them a proper support package.” He spoke of the “sacrifices” made by part-time students and their families, and described how the funding system proposed by the million+ group would “enable people to fit their studies around their work and other responsibilities, rather than the other way round”.
Ben Humphreys, YUSU Welfare Officer, has supported the alternative ways of getting the higher education system through the recession. He commented that he “fully supports the million+ reports proposals for part-time student’s funding to be treated equally to the funding of full-time students. There is no good reason for the Government to treat these two groups differently.”