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Part-time study : full-time commitment

Ryan, Anne (2010) Part-time study : full-time commitment. In: Educational journeys and changing lives. European Society for Research on the Education of Adults, Sevilla, pp. 88-97. ISBN 978-84-693-1554-5

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Increasing the numbers of individuals in higher education has been a central concern of Government in the United Kingdom over the last decade. Furthermore, access for those adults who traditionally would not attend university has been part of this agenda (The Scottish Office, 1998). This paper describes an approach taken within one department in a Scottish university to address these issues and to provide opportunities to combine study at tertiary level with paid employment. The provision of this degree level programme enables students to study on a part-time basis and gain a professional qualification in their chosen field of work. The paper also presents the findings of a small scale research study which aimed to explore the students’ experiences of participation in this programme. As organisers of the programme we had heard the students’ stories about changes in their learning and work lives as a result of participating in this course. It was decided to undertake some research to try to capture these stories and add qualitative data to the information gathered through the formal evaluation. Within this research it was the students’ experiences, perceptions, feelings and opinions that were important and this influenced the research design. In-depth interviews were used to gather qualitative data to explore with students their experiences of the part time route. In the interviews the students described the personal journeys which had led to their decision to attend higher education. The study found that If the Scottish Government is to realise its vision of a lifelong learning society which seeks to close the gap between those ‘who achieve their full potential and those who do not’ (2003, p. 4) opportunities for flexible approaches such as part-time study should continue to be supported and extended.