A dispatch from Chris Cook, our education correspondent:
Most of the responses to Browne have been very equivocal (a large share of UK universities, even ones who are pleased with the recommendations, have issued statements to say “we would like more money, but we do worry about poor children”).
Amid all the fence-sitting, it’s nice to find someone genuinely delighted. Martin Bean, the vice-chancellor of the Open University, is very cheerful, having enjoyed a major triumph in the Browne Review that deserves flagging up.
There’s a broad range of views in higher education, ranging from advocates of laissez-faire through to aspirant members of Gosplan. But there’s total consensus on the fact that the existing system short-changes part-time learners. The Open University, with its 194,000 students, is badly afflicted.
In 2007-08, 39 per cent of undergrads were part-timers, but they got only four per cent of support grants and are not eligible for fees. So, whatever else comes of Lord Browne’s review, the news that he recommends that the finance package should cover part-timers (subject to a few conditions), has caused delight.
Mr Bean is exultant:
“This is a landmark day for part-time higher education in England. The Browne Review marks the end of a two tier system which until now has disadvantaged part-time students. It signals the start of a new, modern era of higher education which promotes opportunity, flexibility, quality and the crucial role of part-time in delivering future economic growth and social mobility”