Part-time courses help: people to get vocational qualifications; widen access to higher education (HE); and strengthen links with employers. We fund HE institutions to support part-time students financially and for activities and initiatives to widen access to HE for part-time students.
The part-time undergraduate fee waiver scheme waives fees for certain students who are unemployed and actively seeking work or who are in receipt of Department for Work and Pensions benefits. It is designed to: help combat social exclusion; help more people to get vocational qualifications; contribute towards widening access for disadvantaged groups, such as care leavers; and increase rates of retention and achievement.
The scheme is part of a package of measures aimed at widening access to higher education. It will be ongoing and independent of existing schemes offered by HE institutions or other bodies to support students, such as schemes funded from institutions’ general resources or hardship funds.
Individual students apply directly to universities for fee waivers and HEFCW will provide grants to institutions to enable them to offer direct assistance to eligible students.
The 2006 Graham Review examined existing fee and student support arrangements and the possible impact of changes to this system.
A subsequent Welsh Government working group concluded that additional funding should be provided to support widening access and strengthening part-time provision within universities, and for strengthening links with employers. From 2007/08 to 2010/11 HEFCW provided annual allocations in support of both areas totalling £25.392 million over four years.
From 2011/12 it was decided that institutions should use their Innovation and Engagement and Widening Access funding from HEFCW to continue these activities or to engage in new areas of part-time support.
Foundation degrees, with their focus on the needs of employers and their flexible mode of delivery, have a crucial role to play on upskilling existing workforces and we see them as an important pillar of the skills agenda in Wales. HEFCW circular W10/29HE Foundation Degrees (July 2010) presented HEFCW’s policy on foundation degrees and announced the allocation of One Wales funding for the development, promotion and delivery of new part-time foundation degree provision, inviting proposals to be submitted by regional partnerships by 7 January 2011.
37 foundation degree proposals were received with a total value of £13.8 million against available funding of £7.64 million. These proposals were considered against a series of criteria, including fit with regional strategies; the extent to which proposals evidenced employer need and market demand for the proposed activities; the extent to which proposed provision would contribute towards upskilling the workforce through part-time provision; and the strength of the proposed partnerships described between HE institutions, FE institutions, Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) and employer representatives.
As a result, HEFCW funded 23 new part-time, employer focused foundation degree programmes. These were developed and delivered by partnerships of universities, further education institutions, SSCs and employers from within the three regions of Wales.
In March 2012 we submitted a report to the Welsh Government on Widening Access: Part-time employer-focused provision in higher education and progression from further education to higher education, which the Welsh Government asked us to publish.
To further our understanding of part-time provision in higher education and progression from FE to HE, and to inform our future actions to support part-time study in HE, we analysed a range of related data and evidence: