UALL welcomes the publication of two reports published at the beginning of March 2019 by the Office of Students, both of which relate to adult, part-time and lifelong learners.
‘Understanding effective part-time provision for undergraduates from under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds‘ questions what the characteristics of part-time students are and ask whether the well-documented decline in participation is greater amongst certain groups. It concludes that, despite the dramatic fall in part-time student numbers overall, the proportion of students from disadvantaged groups has remained relatively stable at around 10 per cent; while mature students, and in particular those over 40, are hardest hit. The cost of part-time HE appears to be the main barrier to access, particularly for disadvantaged and older age groups. Among the report’s recommendations is the important need for national policy to ensure part-time provision becomes a strategic priority for providers.
The research brief resulting in the second report, ‘Recruitment of Mature Students to Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health (NMAH) Courses‘, was to ‘gain a better overall understanding of the mature segment of the student market entering healthcare courses, in order to support continued recruitment of mature students to higher education courses’. It reports that numbers of mature applicants to undergraduate NMAH courses declined at most of the universities researched – especially for programmes that have traditionally recruited small, and mostly mature, cohorts (e.g. Learning Disability Nursing). One key issue reported by university staff to be affecting mature applications to NMAH degree programmes was debt-aversion in the wake of changes to the financing of degrees. However, it notes a discrepancy between undergraduates applications and enrolments to NMAH courses. While the former have declined, the latter have remained stable. Both applications and enrolments to postgraduate programmes were more stable, although the numbers involved were much smaller than for undergraduate entry.
Both reports highlight and reiterate familiar issues pertaining to the UALL constituency and UALL is keen to see a pro-active response to both from the Office of Students.