Manifesto for the Director of Fair Access & Participation 33: Harry Anderson, CBI

Brightside and the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) have released a collection of action points for the new Office for Students on unlocking access to higher education. Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director of Fair Access and Participation contains the views of 35 leading thinkers from academia, university administration, Parliament, think tanks and the media.

We’re also publishing each entry individually. Here Harry Anderson, Policy Adviser (Higher Education) at the Confederation of British Industry, gives his perspective:

‘The UK has made welcome progress on opening up access to university in recent years. The number of disadvantaged 18-year olds on full-time undergraduate courses reached record levels in 2017, increasing by 52 per cent in a decade.

Yet progress made in one area must not allow us to become distracted from the challenges we face in another. The crisis in part-time students urgently needs addressing. From a peak of almost 590,000 in 2008/09, part-time student numbers fell to just over 310,000 in 2015/16. This is a fall of 47 per cent. This decline wipes out the progress made in widening participation to full-time students. So, the total number of disadvantaged students entering university may actually have fallen in recent years.

Given the world of work is changing, it is increasingly clear that people already in employment will need to be able to raise their skills alongside existing commitments. That is why the decline in part-time students is so alarming and why it needs to be top of the agenda.

In representing both universities and businesses, the CBI would welcome working with anyone interested in reversing this trend. The Government’s review of post-18 education offers an ideal opportunity to address this issue as we look to create a funding system that better enables new and more flexible routes to higher education.  With the UK’s future prosperity reliant on the skills and ingenuity of people, no sector has more to offer than our world-leading universities.’