Media Release: A quarter of Scots would go back to university to study part-time but are put off by tuition fees, says survey

ONE in four people in Scotland are put off studying part-time by the tuition fees, according to a MORI poll published today (Monday 16 May 2011).

Of the 1,002 people surveyed, 24 per cent said that the cost of studying part-time education would stop them from taking this route.

The proportion was highest among the unemployed, with over 52 per cent saying they’d like to study and three quarters (73 per cent) of unemployed people saying that associated fees prevented them from doing so.

Some 74,000 students in Scotland – four in every ten – who study at university part-time, still pay their fees upfront and largely out of their own pockets.

The Open University is calling on the new Scottish Government to continue to explore ways of extending the financial support that is available to some part-time students to ensure that cost is not a barrier to anyone considering higher education.

James Miller, director of the Open University in Scotland, said that the arguments for making part-time education free were both about fairness and about the future of Scotland’s economy:

“Access to higher education should be based on the ability to learn, but many part-time students at university continue to have to pay tuition fees.

“There’s clearly an issue about fairness, but it is also a critical issue for the Government to address early on, if our economy is to grow and remain competitive.

“We need a steady stream of young graduates in those emerging sectors that depend on world-class research and innovation, but crucially, we also need people who are currently not working to consider re-skilling. And we need those in work to take their skills and qualifications to a higher level. Studying while in employment is a win-win for the student, their employer and the wider economy.”

The MORI poll found that one third that they would consider studying part-time at university, with two thirds (67 per cent) of those polled stating that improving their career prospects was the biggest benefit of a return to part-time higher education.

Nearly three quarters (70 per cent) of the 2020 working age population (note 1) have already left compulsory education and, with an aging population, The Open University believes that The Scottish Government must do more to encourage those in work, to up-skill or re-skill by returning to higher education.

“Realistically, for many people, a return to study will only be an option if they can fit their learning around their employment and other commitments,” continued Dr Miller.

“We’re seeing a rise in demand for part-time higher education that is by no means coming solely from older people, in fact more young people are actively choosing to ‘earn while they learn’ .

“We  need to find ways of making it more attractive for them – and people at all stages of their careers – to access higher education and  continue to enhance their skills and qualifications over the course of their career.”

Poll findings

  • When asked what the benefits to them would be of studying a university course part-time, nearly two thirds (60 per cent) said it would provide them with better vocational or professional qualifications and nearly half (48 per cent) said it would allow them to carry on working
  • Of the total sample, over half of people who are currently unemployed (52 per cent) would return to university to study part-time but nearly three quarters (73 per cent) are put off by having to pay tuition fees
  • One in three people polled (31 per cent) said they would consider studying a university course on a part-time basis in the future
  • Among younger people questioned (under 35s) over half said they’d consider studying at university part-time in the future to enhance their skills and qualifications


For further information or to arrange an interview with James Miller, please contact Giselle Dye at Pagoda PR 0131 556 0770 or email  mobile for out of hours calls 07739 085023

Notes for Editors

1. According to the Leitch Review of Skills see here

2. The Open University is the leading provider of flexible learning in Scotland. Nearly one in four OUiS students do not have standard university entrance qualifications; one in three of OUiS students live in households with an income below £16,000 and the average age of OUiS  students is 32. OUiS currently offer more than 700 modules to over 16000 students.

3. The poll was commissioned by The Open University in Scotland and undertaken by Ipsos MORI. The results are based on a survey of 1,002 respondents conducted by telephone between 14 April and 17 April 2011. For a copy of the research please contact Giselle Dye at Pagoda PR.

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Contact: Giselle Dye
Phone: 07739085023