Supporting part-time learners in higher education: Equalities and inequalities
Higher education institutions are working in times of change, including a changing student body, changing demographics, and the challenges of globalization. In the UK and many Western countries, part-time enrolments in universities are expected to rise at a much faster rate than full-time, with the mix between part-time and full-time shifting substantially. Whilst policies and practices have often denied opportunities to part-time learners, the changing landscape of UK higher education – with many similarities to the landscapes in much of the developed world – are opening more flexible opportunities to participate in higher education. However, those possibilities are too often marginal, with full-time and younger learners dominating the discourses and practices of higher education institutions. This paper will discuss ways of supporting academic learning for diverse groups of part-time learners, showing how pedagogic approaches can be developed that enhance and support more flexible and effective learning. Institutions face particular challenges in ensuring that the voices of diverse groups of students are heard. This article will argue that to enhance social inclusion, institutions need to ‘speak’ to mature students and part-time students – and many currently do not. However, it will conclude that there are pedagogic approaches which enable more inclusive practices in higher education to be mainstreamed.