Fee support for part-time students

Part-time students are to receive an increase in financial support under new plans announced by the government.

Under the new plans, students studying at least 75% of a full-time course will be eligible to receive up to £1,125 – an increase from the previous maximum of £885.

For students studying at least 50% of a full-time course, the maximum amount will rise to £750, from £590.

Part-time students on low incomes will also be eligible to apply for a grant of £250 per year to help towards other costs of studying.

The money available from the Access to Learning Fund is also set to quadruple, rising from £3 million to £12 million from 2006. Universities will be able to use this fund to provide additional fee support for students facing financial hardship, such as meeting childcare costs.

There are around 520,000 part-time students in England and the government hopes that around 85,000 will benefit from the increased funding.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly said: “Part-time education plays a fundamental role in our higher education system. It extends access to higher education for hundreds of thousands of students who are unable to study on a full-time basis.

“The support needed by part-time students varies considerably. Our new package will protect the participation of students in the most challenging financial circumstances.”

However, unlike full-time students who can defer payment of their tuition until after graduation when they are in employment, part-time students will still have to pay their fees in advance.

Universities had expressed concerns that this could result in a decrease in the numbers of part-time students.

Deferral of fee payments has been ruled out by Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell, who cited a recent survey showing that the majority of part-time students were in full-time paid employment and received some help towards their fees from employers.

The survey, conducted on behalf of the Open University, found that 83% of part-time students are in paid employment, with 65% in full-time work. Forty-one per cent also received all or some help with their fees from an employer, although 42% financed their studies themselves.


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