A study of part time undergraduate students in two Greater Manchester universities
This study examines part-time undergraduate students in the areas of health and
business, at the University of Salford and Manchester Metropolitan University.
The literature review examines the history of part-time education, the factors that
influence the decision to study in higher education, the issues affecting widening
participation and an analysis of the infonnation available to prospective students. The
literature review gave rise to a number of issues that were examined in the survey.
The research methodology employed:
The sample selected was surveyed using a questionnaire.
These were conducted with senior members of staff at the two
universities involved to detennine why they had adopted their
chosen approach to part-time study and to validate the sample
The study concludes that:
The sample reflected the national picture in that the areas of study were vocationally
based, respondents were employed in non-manual occupations and had a wide range
of entry qualifications. The sample differs from the national picture in the level of
study, the preponderance of females in both subject areas and the fact that ethnic
minority groups were not represented in significant numbers. There was evidence to
show that respondents had undertaken part-time study previously although the vast
majority were first generation higher education students.
Overall students agreed that the most important reason for selecting their course was
its practical relevance followed by the actual course content. Broadening of their
experience by study was considered a positive aspect. Both employers and work
colleagues were influential when selecting a course and health students were
particularly directed by their employers. The price of the course was the least
important factor when making a selection. The main reason for studying was to assist
students with their present job although there was evidence that business students
were more likely to be looking at career advancement rather than retaining their
current positions. Health students are more likely to remain with the sam~ employers
for longer. Both subject areas agreed that the most important factors related to course
provision was contact with other students and face to face contact with tutors.
Respondents were of the view that they had been influenced by their school as to
whether or not to progress into FEIHE and a significant proportion felt that they had
not been encouraged to do so. Analysis of part-time and fuII-time applications in the
area surrounding the two universities showed that the full-time "cold spots" are
generaIIy reflected by part-time study. The geodemographic data for the universities
indicated that greater. proportions of group 3 and 4 students (lower income groups) are
mature or part-time. .
Neither university had a part-time strategy although there is some evidence that both
are reacting to demands from students and employers but the part-time provision is
not weII co-ordinated at a central level.
The study resulted in a number of recommendations to the institutions involved to
help improve their provision of part-time higher education.