Making & Missing Opportunities: Part-Time Higher Education in the East of England

Watts, Michael; Cullen, Jane and Mills, Roger (2006). Making & Missing Opportunities: Part-Time Higher Education in the East of England. Association of Universities in the East of England, Cambridge.


The research examines the extent to which undergraduate level part-time higher education contributes to economic and social development in the East of England. The regional economic strategy has called attention to the importance of higher education; but full-time study is simply not an option for the majority of people who did not, for whatever reason, progress to higher education from school and college. Part-time study, however, offers them the opportunity to engage with higher education whilst continuing to maintain the obligations of their family, social and working lives though it remains typically undervalued and under-resourced. The statistical study compares part-time and full-time study in the East of England and provides comparative analyses which establish that almost half of the total undergraduate population in the region and almost a third of those studying for a first degree are engaged in part-time study and that part-time students are far more likely to remain within the region on graduating than their full-time peers. Part time provision in the region is dominated by two institutions – the Open University and Anglia Ruskin University. This suggests that other institutions place less value and invest less in part-time study. These issues, and their complexities, are explored in greater detail through a series of narrative case studies illustrating the experiences of twelve part-time students from the region. These provide insight into the different reasons people have for studying part-time, the range of viable options available to them, the costs of part-time study and the factors that influence choice. Examples of part-time study in the private sector are also included in the report and we include an insight into the employers’ perspective of part-time study. The final sections address the ways in which individuals, institutions and industry can invest in part-time higher education and recommendations for realising its potential.

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