The UK has seen a huge drop in part-time study, with England holding the lowest numbers.
This is believed to have been as a cause of damaging policies put into place in England, but not elsewhere in the UK.
England saw a 42% fall in part-time entrants between 2008 and 2012. Northern Ireland however saw a 16% increase, due to no changes being made to part-time funding arrangements and re-skilling workers being made a government priority.
A report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England shows that there has also been a 23% decline in part-time study in Scotland, and 12% in Wales.
The study, titled Pressure from all sides: Economic and Policy Influences on Part-Time Higher Education shows that the decline has occurred regardless of England’s recovery from the recession and increase in eligibility for part-time study.
Photo: Sakeeb Sabakka
David Latchman, master of Birkbeck, University of London, a key centre for part-time study, has stressed the importance of part-time higher education for economic growth and for students who have been outside formal education for long periods of time.
Latchman indicated that the Welsh government has reserved more part-time funding to keep tuition fees down, in order to avoid the fall seen in England.
He said: “That seems to be working well in Wales and we urge the English government to do the same”.
The study shows that the fall in part-time learning between 2011-12 has a “strong correlation” to unemployment in England and economic weakness, as studying has become less affordable.
This is apparent in the North-East, with 8% unemployment, which saw a 50% fall in part-time entrants.
The report also looks at how part-time study numbers have changed in other countries since the economic crash. The drop in part-time study was much greater Poland and China, however, learning increased in Canada, the US and Germany.