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[29 MAR 99] UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK NEWS
Professor Fears For Part Time Students

In his address to the Association of University Administrators annual conference, on Monday March 29th, the UK's First Professor of Life Long Learning, will praise the Government's commitment to Life Long Learning but will point out that mature part time students could tumble out of Higher Education unless they are given the same access to the student loan system as full time students. Professor John Field, Professor of Life Long learning at the University of Warwick will say:-

"Lifelong learning, to judge by recent policy pronouncements, is the new global orthodoxy. No one seems to believe any more that we can thrive for a lifetime on the basis of a single, early injection of education. When it came to power in 1997, the new Government's interest in education was absolutely unmissable. You will probably remember the sound-bites: "education is the best economic policy we have", and so on. It is now clear that this was serious, and that the Government means business."

However he will also point out that:-

"A Government that is serious about lifelong learning will do its utmost to break the stranglehold of the full-time initial degree. A student funding system that favours full-time study is not compatible with lifelong learning. The educational argument seems overwhelming. However, this is unpopular with the Treasury, who apparently think it is a bottomless pit. And as part-timers already pay their own way, or are supported by employers, the Treasury also think that a loans system would substitute public funding for private. Yet these are curiously unconvincing arguments. The Government's own research evidence on the likely total costs of a loans system is ambivalent; some official studies have suggested that it might even produce long run savings. And since the essence of a loan is that it is repaid, the substitution argument is on shaky grounds."

Without full access to the student loans system Professor Field feels that many potential part time mature students will be put of entering Higher Education. He also fears that, many of those who do make such a commitment may not make it to the end of their degrees. He says:-

"I was aghast to read recent press claims that we now have a national wastage rate of some 25% in the system. It is not yet clear what this represents, since the system's leaders have been coy about releasing these figures... but for a Government interested in equity and inclusion, these figures must be completely unacceptable, particularly if the more non-traditional learners are the most likely to leave without a satisfactory qualification."

For further details contact:
Professor John Field, Professor of Life Long Learning, University of  Warwick, Tel: 01203 523835 email: cesbl@snow.csv.warwick.ac.uk

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CWN / Education / University of Warwick / Press Release / 29 Mar 99

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