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The case for part-time student propensity studies

Recently the government has pushed through funding changes that have directly led to part-time HE course fee increases, widening the student loan opportunities but in the process, all but destroying the ‘leisure’ market entirely.

Historically SPA Future Thinking’s research in this area suggested there was little room to increase fees and that whilst many students took part-time courses for vocational opportunities and career progression there were also those who did them for self-improvement, general interest and more social reasons.

We will leave it to others to discuss the merits of removing the ability for self-improvement through part-time educational opportunities. What is clear is that universities need to adapt their offer and marketing plans in order to ensure part-time courses remain relevant within the new environment.

A key issue faced by any institution looking to understand the local demand for its part-time courses is the small group of potential students who exist within the population at large, and hence the need to contact large numbers of people to find a small number who are likely to be interested in the part-time offer. For regional universities, panel providers simply don’t have the coverage required to examine the regional demand for different part-time courses amongst potential students.

In this instance we believe there is a requirement to remove the geographic restrictions for this type of research.

We need to assume that people living near Sheffield, Worcester and Oxford etc will have similar attitudes and needs for part-time study. Encouraging large scale, online, national studies, co-funded by a number of regional universities (with data weighted to match local demographic profiles) provides a cost effective and robust analysis of the situation. It allows research to establish what triggers and barriers exist to potential students taking on these types of courses and provides non-competing institutions with the ability to maximise their part-time offer and recruitment strategies.

To understand how a syndicated study could help you, or to express an interest in being kept up-to-date on our progress in developing this offer please contact Steve King +44 (0)1865 336 450

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