15. What recent estimate he has made of changes in the number of applications by (a) part-time and (b) mature students since changes in the level of student fees. (902874)
Data are not collected on applications for part-time study in higher education. However, the number of part-time students enrolling in higher education has fallen by 42% since its peak in 2008-09. The latest figures from UCAS show that the number of mature applicants to full-time undergraduate courses has risen over the last two application cycles by 5%.
I thank the Minister for that answer, and for that rather startling statistic. Another startling statistic is that the number of part-time undergraduates fell by 19% in 2012-13. Does he now regret the trebling of tuition fees? Does he understand that it has undermined the number of part-time students and that it is leading to declining social mobility?
This is not to do with the introduction of the fees and loans. As I said in answer to the previous question, the burden of repayment on graduates has fallen. The hon. Gentleman describes a trend that began under the previous Government. We believe it is attributable significantly to their policy of not funding students who already have an equivalent-level qualification. That is why I have started the process of reversing that by extending entitlements to loans to more part-time students, and we aim to continue to reverse the damage done by Labour’s policy.