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Key findings include:

  • Part-time UK and European Union undergraduate entrant numbers in 2013-14 are almost half what they were in 2010-11.
  • Declines in entry to part-time higher education courses appear to have been affected by a range of macroeconomic factors including falls in employment – particularly in the public sector.
  • Wider comparisons among the UK nations show that part-time declines in England appear to have been affected by a range of policy changes alongside economic effects.
  • Numbers of UK and European Union entrants with direct financial backing from their employers for undergraduate part-time study fell by almost half in 2012-13 compared with the previous year, from 40,000 to 23,000. A significant fall in employer financial backing was also seen for postgraduate students between 2010-11 and 2012-13. This is largely explained by a large fall in the number of entrants to education-related subjects.
  • Part-time fees have risen significantly, but still tend to be lower than full-time fees. Students are generally more likely to find greater variability in fees for part-time courses than for full-time courses.
  • Part-time study appears to be more likely to suffer in a recession – but this is not inevitable. Around half of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries saw growth in part-time between 2010 and 2011.

This report draws on a separate report to HEFCE by Oxford Economics, ‘Macroeconomic influences on the demand for part-time higher education in the UK’.

Date: 29 April 2014

Ref: HEFCE 2014/08d

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Recruitment, Part-time higher education

Enquiries should be directed to:

David Heron, tel 0117 931 7105, e-mail