Q1. For the purpose of this review, what defines a "part time" student?
There is no clear definition of part time students with the Universities Scotland Report of the Part-time Students Ad Hoc Group http://www.universities-scotland.ac.uk/Publications/PTSR.pdf) reflecting the diversity in views. The NPC believes that part time students encompass a wide spectrum covering structured and unstructured courses and covering students studying evenings, distance learning, virtual learning and block release intensive study.
Q2. Should all levels and volumes of part time study be considered by the review?
The NPC believes that while the forms of learning may be different the principles of part time study remain the same and that like full time study need to be attractive in encouraging lifelong learning and widening participation in education.
Q3. Should a distinction be made between Welsh domiciled part time student and those living elsewhere as will be the case for full time
students from 2007?
The NPC believes that a trust fund to provide studentships to Welsh domiciled students from the poorest socio-economic backgrounds would increase the numbers of domiciled students undertaking postgraduate study and would encourage Welsh-domiciled prospective postgraduates to remain in (or return to) Wales for postgraduate study. Encouraging domiciled students to study would help to regenerate communities and help to encourage widening participation.
Q4. Should the level of fees be set at the same level as for full time study?
If so;Should the level apply to all part time study;
Part time fees are often calculated on a pro-rata of full time study. Fees are payable by, or on behalf of, most postgraduate students regardless of the mode of study. Institutions are able to charge market prices for degrees though most institutions charge at a similar level. The National Assembly and the HEFCW should endeavour to limit postgraduate tuition fee inflation across Wales. The NPC does not wish to see a market for fees that would discourage students from entering postgraduate education and would encourage that postgraduates are able to access the Student Loans Scheme.
Q5. Would a deferment of fees be appropriate for part time study? If so;
Should the method of re-payment be identical to that of full time students?
Postgraduates not in receipt of research council studentships should have access to the Student Loans scheme and a trust fund should be established to provide postgraduate studentships to Welsh domiciled students from the poorest socioeconomic backgrounds. Deferment of fees would support widening participation and encourage students who felt it necessary to undertake part time study through other commitments or pressures.
Q6. How should institutions be funded for part time study?
There is not a presumption of 'right of access' to publicly funded courses without a fees element for postgraduates. Fees are payable by most postgraduate students regardless of mode of study. In many institutions the part-time postgraduate fee is simply charged pro rata to the full-time provision. Institutions should encourage domicile students and increase widening participation by extending the Student Loans Scheme and providing studentships to students from the poorest socio-economic backgrounds.
Q7: Are there any issues relating to student support which you would wish to draw to our attention regarding particular groups of part time students in higher education in Wales? Such groups could be disabled students, those with dependants, mature age students and those students wishing to study through the medium of Welsh.
There are varying reasons for undertaking part time study and support and funding needs to consider these. For students with dependants there should be free crèche facilities. Students should also be protected from hidden costs such as printing charges, photocopying and computing facilities. Extending the Student Loans Scheme will reduce the upfront burden of debt and provide a more competitive loan repayment than commercial loans.
Encouraging welsh-domiciled applicants to remain in Wales and for specific support for Welsh-medium courses in areas such as education and nursing may challenge the risk of a lack of skills.
The example of the Postgraduate Students' Allowance Scheme operated by the Student Award Agency for Scotland (see https://www.saas.gov.uk) is useful as the Scottish Parliament introduced this scheme because it recognised the same lack of skills which Wales faces now. NPC has also recommended a similar scheme to the English RDAs (see http://www.npc.org.uk/page/1076699904)
Q8: How can we enable part time study to support and enhance the widening participation agenda?
To encourage under-represented groups and domicile students there needs to be financial support to enable family and financial difficulties to be reduced. Encouraging Welsh people to study at postgraduate level would encourage them with local domicile grants to pursue academic careers in their home area and enrich the local economy upon graduation.
The NPC believes that part time study covers a wide area of levels and volumes. All of these levels and volumes must be considered in funding and supporting part time students.
We recommend that the National Assembly for Wales take advantage of the present opportunity to introduce a funding scheme for those resident in Wales which allows the able, who may otherwise fail to achieve their full potential, to pursue higher education to postgraduate level in Welsh HEIs.
Part time study and its financial support offers the opportunity to build up a better trained and informed citizenship and to facilitate the expansion of research in Welsh academia and industry. Postgraduate education is challenged by the market nature of fees and the Welsh Assembly should seek to control the variation in fees and encourage the extension of the Student Loans Scheme to all students not in receipt of research council funding.