Paying the Price? An Investigation Into the Continued Decline of Part-time Higher Education in England


Part-time study represents a significant segment of the UK higher education sector accounting for almost half of all university enrolments at its peak in 2004, yet since then the different modes of study (full-time/part-time) have followed very different trajectories. A ‘perfect storm’ of economic conditions and government policy changes have combined to trigger a dramatic decline in part-time higher education enrolments even though full-time study enrolments continue to expand. The steep rise in tuition fees in 2012 is widely regarded as the sole catalyst behind the decline. However, this view almost certainly oversimplifies a complex array of economic pressures and policy changes that have coalesced to depress part-time recruitment. This article looks beyond the fee hike by synthesising the findings from a number of recent significant studies to separate the influence that recent governmental policy changes, supply-side factors and demand-side barriers have each exerted on part-time enrolments. The article continues by exploring some of the recent initiatives for enabling more accessible and flexible study that may help to slow the decline and also discusses abandoning the binary separation of the study modes as discrete entities as this may be particularly detrimental to the part-time mode.


student finance, demand, government policy, higher education, enrolments, decline, part-time, supply

How to Cite

Sentance, C., (2019) “Paying the Price? An Investigation Into the Continued Decline of Part-time Higher Education in England”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research 5(1). doi:


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Chris Sentance (University of Huddersfield)





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