On Tuesday 3rd March 2015 we held the first seminar in our 2014/15 series which aims to promote discussion, dialogue and debate about current issues relating to widening participation. It also contributes to supporting the delivery of the Open University’s Widening Access and Success Strategy. This first seminar focusssed on politics, policy and widening participation and began with a presentation by Dr John Butcher, Deputy Director for Curriculum and Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Inclusion and Collaborative Partnerships at the Open University. He presented the key findings from an Higher Education Academy funded research project exploring the experiences of part-time students across the UK.
Professor Gareth Parry from the School of Education at the University of Sheffield, Jane Rogers from Craven College and Dr Chris Wilkes Principal at Ruskin College responded the these findings from their institutions’ perspective which raised some interesting issues, particularly for the HE in FE sector who, whilst offering a greater degree of responsiveness to changes and demands within the environment are often at the mercy of universities in respect of validation and franchising.
Representatives of the main political parties were invited to speak at the seminar and we were grateful to Emily Darlington and Andrew Pakes, Labour Party candidates for Milton Keynes North and South for leading a session and contributing to the discussion.
The key messages that emerged from the event were that the discussions around part-time HE still focus on the traditional university age student ie 18 year olds and neglects the mature learner who make a significant contribution to the economy and for which part-time study is perhaps the only option.
The contents of the seminar packs can be found here: