Thursday, 29 October 2009

Mike Baker wonders when review of student fees is going to happen

Thanks to Paul for highlighting this recent bbc news article by Mike Baker asking when the "New Framework for Universities", due late October is going to be published.

The following extract from this article ponders current challenges for flexible and part-time learning.....

....Lord Mandelson has also hinted that boosting the number of skilled people in the economy will be central to the new framework for universities. This is likely to be mean more short courses, at both undergraduate and post-graduate level, delivered in a variety of ways: part-time, in shorter, more flexible modules, through distance learning and in the workplace.

Yet the worrying reality is that in the past few years the number of part-time students has started to fall. This is at a time when total student numbers are rising. No-one quite knows what has caused this reversal of the previous growth trend. However a student support system that discriminates against part-time study may be part of the explanation.

After all, is it logical to treat a student with a full-time job who studies part-time differently from a student who studies full-time but has a part-time job?

.....The other half of this equation is the way universities are funded for part-time students, which tends to discriminate against those institutions that are trying hard to widen participation by offering more flexible learning.
Some universities have pushed ahead with encouraging part-time students - on short courses, via distance learning and at undergraduate level - but this is a risky strategy, as these students often require greater support, need teaching outside standard office hours and are more likely to drop out.
We already have benchmarks to measure universities' achievement in widening participation, should we have benchmarks for the proportion of part-time students enrolled? ....

(Posted on BBC News Website Saturday 24 October 2009)

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