#PartTimeMatters to me. How about to universities?

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I’ve been following the #PartTimeMatters campaign with great interest.

Having completed ALL of my studies part time I am a big advocate for it. I know the challenges and the rewards of part time study inside out. And I am consistently encouraging people to look into it – especially if they have an interest in further study but have to work for a living (as alas, most of us do).

Following the campaign on twitter I also get really annoyed with universities using the hashtag to promote distance learning. I would have thought this is evident to people whose main job is education but here goes: Studying part time is NOT the same as distance learning. Sure, one could argue that distance learning is by definition a part time thing and I get the argument. However, part time which happens in an actual campus, with people around you, lectures, seminars, and actual beers to moan about assignments cannot be compared with distance learning. They are fundamentally different in terms of teaching style, synchronous or asynchronous communications, community building, learning patterns, etc. etc. I am not knocking distance learning. I have done it and it’s great. But it still refers to where whereas part time refers to when

My pet hate though is not so much this lovely muddling up of what part time and distance learning can offer the student. But the infuriating pretension that Part Time is only studying half the time. Get a grip! 

I was extremely lucky to be a Birkbeck student (I know I sing their praises often, rest assured they are not paying me) because it was set up to cater to working students. Everything happens with working people in mind, with courses taking place in the evening, extended admin office hours and even periods of 24 hour library operating hours. In other words Birkbeck is the complete opposite of universities which do pretend Part Time. 

Pretend Part Time is my favourite UK uni insanity. Effectively you have to take half the courses of Full Time students. At the same time. Usually in the mornings, afternoons, evenings any old time, because it suits the university and not its part time students. Basically its the old middle finger salute, guaranteed to disrupt your career – which is exactly what you wanted to avoid.

I wonder if anyone looked into why part time studying is down. I’d love to know if patterns of study, course times, academic/support resources availability and payment terms (lump sum payment anyone?) are affecting the figures. Having been trained in research methods makes you compelled to wait for someone to give you the correlation. Which makes it hard when you want to rant a little bit. But you get my point.

I almost think that there should be a #PartTimeStudentsCount campaign, to explain the benefits of mature working people in the student body – and what they can bring into the university.

My point is, the serious prospective students know that #PartTimeMatters. How about the universities themselves?

 

The Part-time Matters campaign, launched off the back of Adult Learners’ Week, champions the benefits of part-time study and raises awareness of the challenges facing part-time education today. It is led by an alliance of high-profile institutions representing universities, businesses, unions and educational institutions.

Why part-time matters

One third of all higher education (HE) students study part-time, so for over 700,000 students ‘Part-time Matters’ and this important mode of study now seems to be seriously at risk.

There is a wealth of recent research that demonstrates the significant benefits part-time higher education creates for the economy, employers, society and the individual:

Levels of employment stability are particularly high for part-time students with 81 per cent working throughout their study and two years later.
Employers value part-time study as a good model to develop work-readiness in graduates and in providing existing employees with the skills and knowledge that can improve productivity and efficiency.
Graduates said part-time study helped them develop as a person (88 per cent), improve self-confidence (78 per cent) and increase their overall happiness (55 per cent).
The social and economic necessity for an expanding higher education sector, including making university places available to more mature and part-time students, has never been greater.

(via)

 

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