A major slump in the number of part-time students opting for higher education degrees is revealed in a report by university vice-chancellors today.
Figures show the numbers have fallen by 40 per cent in the past two years with 105,000 fewer students enrolling as a result. The report also shows a four per cent slump in the decade up to 2011 - with women less likely to apply (their numbers had dropped by 14 per cent).
According to the research - conducted for Universities UK, the umbrella body representing vice-chancellors, the most significant fall has been amongst women in their thirties.
The report says women are also more likely to be hit by any further fall as they are over-represented in areas suffering the most financial pressures - education, health and public administration.
It adds that giving some part-time students access to loans has failed to improve the situation because - as people grow older - they become more debt averse.
Professor Sir Eric Thomas, chairman of Universities UK’s review and vice-chancellor of Bristol University, said that “something is going wrong”.
“The UK needs more graduates,” he added. “Over 80 per cent of new jobs to be created by 2020 will be in occupations with high concentrations of graduates.”