HE White Paper – full NIACE response Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 09:59

Students at a graduation ceremony

NIACE believes that engaging adults in higher learning and opening up more opportunities for them to study part-time, in ways that fit around their work and family circumstances, are critical both to economic growth and to social mobility.

While there is much to welcome in the White Paper Higher Education: Students at the Heart of the System, NIACE is concerned that the unintended consequences of some of the Government's reforms to higher education could prevent adults from playing their full part in economic and social renewal.

There are three main things NIACE proposes the Government does to address this:

  • make part-time study more attractive to adults by reviewing loan repayment arrangements to ensure part-time students do not become liable for repayments while studying, and tailoring communications to the complex needs of adults;
  • review the ‘core and margin' system which could make it more difficult for mature students who have come to higher education by a non-traditional route to gain a place at elite universities and could leave students from disadvantaged backgrounds over-represented at less prestigious and less well resourced institutions; and
  • reconsider the introduction of Level 3 loans in further education and the restriction of the entitlement to face-to-face careers guidance, which, NIACE believes, could impact negatively on wider participation and social mobility.

Paul Stanistreet, NIACE's policy lead for higher education, said:

"NIACE has long argued that higher education should not be viewed in isolation but as part of a wider framework of lifelong learning. Adults progress to and from higher education in many different ways, with many different aims and aspirations, and it is critically important that efforts to help them to achieve these ambitions do not fall foul of the unintended consequences of decisions made in other parts of the system."

Mark Ravenhall, NIACE's Director for Policy and Impact, added:

"Achieving a better articulation of the way in which the different elements of the education system relate to each other is critical both to social mobility and to boosting economic competitiveness. We are grateful, therefore, to our members from HE, FE and the private sector for their input into this response."

NIACE's full response to Higher Education: Students at the Heart of the System, the Government's higher education White Paper, is available here.

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