Thinking About Studying for a Part-time Course?

Over recent years, part-time study has become more appealing to a large number of people. Increased interest generated by employers’ staff development needs and individuals’ desires to further themselves educationally at various stages of their lives has seen Higher Education course providers move to offer more flexible study modes in addition to their full-time course provision to respond to this need.Part-time courses can range from short practical courses, professional qualifications and vocational studies through to academic courses at bachelors and masters degree level. Some courses may allow students to prepare for a change in their career or enhance their current one. Students may be able to study on a day release basis, in the evenings or at weekends depending on the course itself.

The benefits of part-time study mean that students with other commitments – whether work or family – have greater opportunities to access courses which accommodate these more effectively.

Funding part-time study

Financially, many part-time courses are more cost effective than full-time study in terms of actual fee amounts charged and the ability to pay for the course over a longer period of time. Some students may be able to gain funding from their employer if the course they are studying is relevant to their professional development and their employer agrees to this. Other students may be able to gain support for funding for eligible courses via their Local Education Authority.

For courses that are offered at Further Education level (level 3), students who’ve not previously undertaken level 3 qualifications may be able to apply for the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) if they’re under 19, or the Adult Learning Grant (ALG)  if they’re 19 or over. Contact your Local Education Authority for more information. Some short and professional courses may not attract any funding support so students would either need to fund themselves or see if their employer is willing to provide such support.

For students undertaking their first BTEC Higher National or undergraduate degree on a part-time basis, funding may be available from the Local Education Authority in the form of fee grants and course grants.  If a student has already completed an equivalent or lower level Higher Education qualification, they are not usually entitled to any further support from their LEA and would need to consider finding an alternative source of funding or paying for the course themselves.

The vast majority of postgraduate courses aren’t supported by government funding. Prospective postgraduate students may seek out funding opportunities such as scholarships and bursaries that may be offered by a range of charitable trusts and organisations. Competition for scholarships and bursaries can be fierce, so it’s important to start looking for available funding sources in advance of starting a course. Hotcourses offers a scholarship search database to help source opportunities. 

Taking the first step

Part-time study offers the flexibility for people to earn while they learn, or develop themselves further around other commitments such as raising a family. Whether you want to study a subject that you’ve always had a passion for or are looking to do something to help you move on in your career, there may be a course for you at course providers in your area.

This article provides a few basic pointers to get you started. You’ll need to think about what subject you want to study, what level you want to study at and whether you require a qualification that is professionally accredited before contacting colleges and universities about course availability. Hotcourses is a useful website you can use to search for a wide variety of courses across the country, and allows users to determine the subject, mode of study, level and geographical area they wish to search within.

Research your options

Once you’ve found courses you’re interested in, get in touch with the course providers to find out more. Questions you may want to ask institutions may be about hours of study, whether the course runs in the day or evening, whether distance learning options are available and how much the course costs.

Visit the institution’s website for information about the courses or request a copy of the course brochure so you can compare the different courses you find. Check with the college or university to see if they have any part-time course open days you could attend; it’s often a good way to find out more and to get a feel for where the course is delivered.

Weigh it all up

When you’ve gathered the information, sit down and weigh up the pros and cons of the courses you’ve chosen, such as:

• Does the content of the course reflect what you’re looking for?
• Are the hours of attendance workable?
• How long will it take to complete the qualification?
• Is there funding available for the course?
• Will the course help you to work towards your personal or professional goals?

Making an application

When you’ve had the chance to weigh up your options, you’ll hopefully be fairly clear in your final decision. If you decide to apply for a course, make sure you do so in plenty of time – some courses can be particularly popular, especially if they are recognised professional qualifications. Check with the institution you’re interested in applying to about how to apply and whether any application deadlines are applicable.

And finally…

Above all, it’s important that you feel comfortable with any decision you make to take up a course and have received sufficient information about the options available to you in order for you to make an informed decision. Making a decision to study part-time is not something that students’ take lightly, so the more relevant information you have access to, the more prepared you can be to make an informed choice.

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