There are around 200,000 part-time first degree undergraduates compared to around one million full-time. To estimate the cost to the public purse of giving part-time students the same tuition fee arrangements is complicated due to their diverse nature. We can give very broad estimates based on the assumptions we hold for full-time students and replicating the exact same package of support. This enables us to estimate the resource cost of fee loans in the region of £150 million per year if all part-time students had fees of £3,000 per year; and £75 million if we assume they are studying at 50 per cent. intensity and are charged fees of £1,500 per year.
These estimates assume that part-time students are identical to full-time students in every respect except they are part-time. They are highly dependent on uncertain factors such as eligibility for and take-up of support, level of fees charged and earnings following completion of the course, all of which have been assumed the same as for full-time students.
This Government was the first to introduce statutory support for part-time students, in 2000/01. In 2006/07, we introduced the most generous package of financial support ever for part-time students in England. This included increasing the maximum fee grant by 27 per cent. and an above-inflation increase in the income threshold for receiving this support. The part-time package is different from the support available to full-time students because it has been designed to meet the particular needs of part-time students. Unlike full-time students, many part-time students are in full-time employment—two thirds according to the Woodley report, published at the end of 2004. That report also found that 36 per cent. of part-time students receive full fee support from their employer. We must ensure that statutory student support is carefully focussed to achieve maximum benefit.