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Post-18 choice of part-time study

Studying
Published: May 2019

A report on part-time and mature students and their chosen qualifications and levels, and the factors that inform their choices.

Aim 

The aim of this research was to assess the level of demand for education within the population, particularly from prospective part-time and/or mature students, including how they made choices about qualifications and levels, and the barriers and enablers which informed those decisions.

Findings

  • Approximately a third of the general population was found to be ‘prospective learners’ (PLs) – i.e. to have considered or started studying for a new qualification in the previous five years.
  • Over three-quarters of PLs said they were motivated to consider studying for professional reasons.
  • For most considering part-time or both part-time and full-time education, the main motivation for studying part-time was work-related: they wanted to combine study and work or could not afford not to work.
  • The main aspects identified by PLs as having undermined or prevented their take-up of studies included: all types of study costs (i.e. course fees, living costs, costs of equipment and travel related to study); the amount required to study; and the balance with work commitment.
  • The main aspects identified by PLs as having facilitated or enabled their take-up of studies included: the relevance of the course offer, the flexibility and location of the course, as well as the availability of information about the course and the application process.
  • Nearly half of PLs and two-thirds of those with caring responsibilities of 10 hours or more per week agreed that family commitments made them think twice when considering studying for a new qualification.

Methods 

This research adopted a mixed-methods approach, which combined two surveys and follow-up in-depth telephone interviews. The survey content included a short ‘screening’ questionnaire to identify and profile the population of interest, followed by a more extensive questionnaire on participants’ experiences. Follow-up telephone interviews ensured a depth of inquiry, which could not be obtained through the survey alone.

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