Education system must change for flexible study

Posted on 19 Nov 2018 and read 678 times
Education system must change for flexible studyOne of the main findings of a project set up by Universities UK (UUK) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) earlier this year to look at the decline in part-time student enrolments and the changing needs of students and employer says “a generation of ‘lost learners’ is missing out on the chance to develop the skills at university that employers and the UK economy need, because of the cost and time it takes to study part-time”.

In a joint statement to government, UUK ( and the CBI ( recommend: evolution of the Apprenticeship Levy into a more-flexible Skills Levy, so that it can cover a wider range of training, including more-flexible study; greater support for students moving between work and study across their lifetimes, with the education system supporting shorter and more-flexible courses; and more collaboration between employers and higher and further education, to help learners progress to qualifications between A-levels and a university degree.

Between the academic years 2010–11 and 2016–17, there was a drop of 37% in the number of people studying part-time across the UK. Meanwhile, a UUK survey of ‘lost learners’ (those who considered — but did not end up completing — a part-time higher-education course from academic year 2010/11 onwards) found that: just over half of them were between 25 and 44 years of age and in full-time work; around half held A-levels or lower as their highest qualification; and that a lack of flexibility around ‘life commitments and work during study’ was one of the top reasons for lost learners not starting part-time higher education — and the most common reason for dropping out of study.

Other reasons included the tuition and living costs when studying on a part-time basis.

Julie Lydon, vice-chancellor of the University of South Wales and chairman of the project’s advisory group, said: “For many years, discussion about higher education has focused only on the traditional route of school-leavers heading away to study full-time at university for three or four years.

"The evidence from this project shows that there is significant demand from learners and employers for more-flexible learning, where learners combine study with work and other life commitments.

"Learning should not stop when you reach your 20s; it must continue over a lifetime.

"As the way we work changes, government must change the education system to better support universities offering shorter and more-flexible courses, in order to better meet the needs of learners and employers.”

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