Further education leaders have called for action to stop a sharp decline in part-time higher education study after a report revealed the number of entrants fell by almost half in three years.

Research conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has shown that the number of part-time w and EU undergraduate entrants fell from 259,000 in 2010/11 to 139,000 in 2013/14 — a drop of 120,000, or 46 per cent.

The report has prompted concerns across the FE sector, which caters for large numbers of part-time higher education learners.

Association of Colleges higher education policy manager Nick Davy said: “Many of its [HEFCE’s] findings — decline in public sector employment, cuts in training budgets, various policy changes such as the introduction of loans and the equivalent and higher qualification policy — chime with intelligence from our colleges. This is a very important market for them as nearly 50 per cent of their higher education intake is part-time, and many colleges are in poor areas, often reliant on public sector employment.”

David Hughes, chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, said: “The decline in part-time study is bad news indeed for the economy
and for adults who want to improve their career prospects.

“The solution to this is not simple because it requires policy changes and funding action, as well as institutions to respond creatively.

“More than anything we need to stimulate the demand from individuals and employers such that policy and supply flexes and responds.

“Above all, though, the report highlights just how far we are from the kind of diverse, flexible, creative and collaborative higher education system that is needed to meet the needs of a growing economy and an ageing population.”

Click here to read Mark Corney’s expert piece