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On 5 July 2018, the House of Lords is scheduled to debate a motion moved by Baroness Bakewell (Labour) on “part-time and continuing education, and in particular the future of the Open University”.

This short briefing considers some of the issues central to the debate on the decline in levels of part-time study in recent years, particularly in respect of part-time higher education courses in England—including a marked fall in the number of students taking part-time courses at the Open University (OU). Reasons suggested for the decline have ranged from economic explanations, such as the impact of the financial downturn on part-time course enrolments, to policy changes, such as the impact of reforms to the student tuition fee regime in England introduced under the Coalition Government. Other reasons, such as changing learning habits, have also been suggested as contributing to the downward trend. In response, the Government has launched a review of post-18 education in England. A selection of recommended reading is identified at the end of the briefing for further information on this subject.

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