The Minister for Higher Education, Kim Howells, made an announcement today regarding additional financial aid for part-time students in England to pay for their course fees. This new measure entails that those earning less than £15,000 a year can avail £250 in grants. The £250 grant was part of the provisions made by the government in the highly-debated legislation on the introduction of variable fees. Higher education institutions can set course fees for part-time students, unlike for full-time home undergraduates.
A recent survey by the Open University, which interviewed 3,294 part-time students and was released by the Department for Education and Skills, reports that a majority of part-time undergraduates are in their mid to late thirties, female, and employed in full-time jobs. The research found that 83% of these students are in paid employment, out of which 65% work full-time. Furthermore, 41% of students are supported by their employers, with 51% of those employed full-time receiving the complete cost of their tuition fees from their employer.
The grant for part-time students who study 75% of a full-time course shall receive more financial aid than those who study 50% of a full-time course, increasing the maximum amount of financial support available to £840 from £575 annually. This change shall apply to new and existing students. Part-time students shall also continue to apply for the £250 grant each year to support their associated course costs.
Mr Howells stated that the study highlights the significant difference between the needs of part-time and full-time students. The minister further expressed happiness over the fact that over half of part-time students who work full-time receive financial backing from their respective employers. This suggests the commitment of UK businesses to enhancing the expertise of their employees. Mr Howells hopes to see the percentage of employers supporting their workers to increase further in the years to come.