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Social Mobility Commission laments decline of adult education

The increase in tuition fees and its impact on mature student numbers in England has damaged one of the country’s major routes to social mobility, a report has claimed.

According to the Social Mobility Commission, adult higher education “is one of the few mechanisms whereby adults increase the level of qualification they hold, and is therefore a major route to social mobility”. However, the increase in fees—currently capped at £9,250 a year for undergraduate courses—has “seemingly impacted on the propensity of adults in England to engage in higher education on a full- or part-time basis”, the report, published on 29 January, said.

The proportion of students studying for their first degree who were aged 25 or over fell from 20 per cent in 2012-13 to 16 per cent in 2017-18, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. The number of people from the most deprived areas studying part-time—mostly mature students—has fallen by 47 per cent since fees were increased to £9,000 in 2012.

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