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'It's About Time'

‘It’s About Time’ is a two-part joint research project by NUS Wales and The Open University in Wales.

The purpose of this research was to develop an understanding of who studies part-time, why they choose to study part-time and what their experiences of part-time study are. What has become clear is that part-time opportunities are at the forefront of widening access and employability in Wales. Survey and interview data confirms that part-time students are a diverse group that spans the adult age-range with a high proportion from difficult to reach groups including disabled students, carers and parents.

The first phase of the research employed a wide-reaching online survey to gather, for the most part, quantitative data to gain an authoritative understanding of the make-up, mode and experiences of part-time students across Wales. We received 1,344 valid responses from part-time students across further and higher education. The emergent themes from this survey then informed the second phase of the research which developed qualitative interviews with 25 part-time students.

 Key Findings

  • Part-time students are a diverse group who are spread across the adult age range, with 62% of our respondents being over 30. Our research suggests that part-time students include a high proportion of students who are in employment (72%), have a long-term health condition or disability (22%), or have caring responsibilities (39%).
  • Part-time study is firmly associated with employability and the economy, 72% of part-time students are in employment and the most commonly cited reason for pursuing part-time study was to improve future employability.
  • Part-time students tend to be satisfied with their courses, on average stating that their course is close to fully meeting expectations.
  • The informal commitment to part-time study is greater than the formal commitment, with over half of part-time students studying over 10 hours a week informally through reading, writing or independent study. 40 per cent of respondents felt that the time commitment had been more than they had expected prior to beginning their course.
  • The majority of part-time students find the pressure of their course ‘about right’ (75%). However, carers, parents and disabled students were more likely to say they felt their course was a little too pressured.
  • Over half of part-time students have missed a formal part of their course, the most common reasons cited for this being caring commitments, work commitments or transport difficulties. Being a disabled student, carer or parent increases the likelihood of a student missing a formal element of their course.
  • The most common sources of funding used by part-time students to fund their studies are savings or paid work. Around one in ten students have used personal debt to fund their study.
  • Fifteen percent of those in employment receive support or funding from their employer. Those who do receive support were very grateful of financial support but emphasised the importance of other kinds of support including study leave and flexibility to attend formal elements of the course.
  • A third of part-time students did not seek advice or guidance prior to starting their course, those that do generally seek academic and financial advice. Part-time students tend to seek advice from their institutions, their lecturers/tutors and online

Read the full “It’s About Time” report.