3 Funding for part time students |
30. One of our reasons for visiting Australia was
to learn lessons generally from the experiences of a well developed
higher education sector. As 2006-07 is the academic year in which
variable fees have been introduced in England, we discussed with
a number of our Australian hosts the experience of the Higher
Education Contribution System (HECS), which was the original model
for the fees system here. There are a number of differences between
the Australian and English systems, an important one being that
in Australia the level of fees payable depends on the course being
taken. Another significant difference is that in Australia there
is no distinction in terms of the support offered to students
between those who are studying part-time and those studying full
31. While funding for fees and grants for part time
students in England has increased, they are not included in the
variable fees scheme, nor do they have access to student loans.
We were told that funding of fees for part time students is currently
50% of what it would be if it was set at an equivalent level to
that for full time students.
On student support, the highest grant available for those eligible
is £250, and research by South Bank University has suggested
that 58% of those eligible spend more than that on course costs.
32. As participation in higher education has increased,
so the nature of the student body has changed. Forty per cent
of students are defined as studying part time.
Full time students, however, work on average 14 hours a week
in paid employment, and 20% work more than 20 hours a week.
It is hard to see how someone employed for 20 hours or more each
week can be defined as a full time student; yet those students
have access to the full range of student support denied to others
defined as part time.
33. Professor David Vincent, Pro-Vice Chancellor
of The Open University, told us:
"There are advanced systems, and Australia is
one, where there is no distinction whatsoever between full and
part time, where the category of part time has no meaning. They
are just all proportions of a student. In an ideal world we would
have that system here."
Along with Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck
College, University of London, he advocated as a short term solution
a premium payable to those institutions whose student body was
constituted entirely of part-time students, and that in the medium
term there should be a premium for all part time students wherever
they study .
34. The distinction between part time and full time
students for the purpose of fee and income support is now so blurred
as to be no longer sustainable. We
recommend that the Government reviews as a matter of urgency the
current arrangements for fee support payable to institutions
for part time students and the availability of support for part
time students themselves. For the future, we believe that students
should be seen as one group with a variety of needs for support
rather than being arbitrarily divided into categories of part
time and full time.
39 Q 232 Back
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