OU student numbers decline by a further 10.3% in 2013/14

The latest statistical first release from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) was made on 15th January. New part-time enrolments (often, but not always, mature students) have fallen by 8% across the whole sector, adding to a 15% decline from the previous year. New full-time enrolments have increased by 1%.

Table 10 of the release provides a detailed analysis of OU student numbers (who are all considered to be part-time, regardless of the intensity of study undertaken). This has allowed me to update the chart I created last year.

OU Student Numbers 2008-09 to 2013-14The chart shows a year on year decline of 10.3% in overall student numbers, with an 11.7% decline in undergraduates. However, the number of postgraduate students has increased by 8.8%, albeit still below the number being taught by the OU in 2011/12.

The OU has, of course, taken steps to ensure that it is able to survive in the current climate, not least by the nearly four-fold increase in module fees charged to students domiciled in England who are not on transitional fee arrangements. However, you can’t help but worry when you see figures like these for (a) the health of the institution and (b) the impact that changes in HE funding arrangements must be having on those who want or need to re-skill themselves later on in life. Lifelong learning continues to be undervalued by this government in much the same way that the previous Labour government undervalued it when they removed ELQ (equivalent or lower qualification) funding in 2008.

Perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon. At the end of last year, UCAS released figures demonstrating that the number of students placed at UK HE institutions in 2014 reached an all-time high (these acceptances will of course be reflected in next year’s release from HESA). However, it would be misleading to extrapolate this data to the Open University as UCAS do not administer their admissions.

I wish Peter Horrocks, the new vice-chancellor of the OU, every success in the role which he is due to start on the 5th May, a mere two days before the general election. Let’s hope that whatever colour(s) the next government consists of they will be rather more sympathetic to the needs of lifelong learners than the last two have been.

 

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Reader Comments

  1. busysuzi

    It’s hardly surprising that the part time students percentage has dropped. What with the rising costs and the amount of work put upon on us when we all have other commitments. My current course DSE212 is more like a full time course and looking at the student forum, many others agree with me. I think you need to re-think your itineraries otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of very stressed part time students, like myself, (making themselves ill in trying to reach the TMA deadline). This will obviously making the failure rate higher. The alternative will be no part time student on the Level 2 and Level 3 modules resulting in less degrees. This would not be good for the OU’s worldwide reputation.

Your thoughts?