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‘Target 70% Higher Education participation by 2035’, UK Govt. urged

‘Target 70% Higher Education participation by 2035’, UK Govt. urged

A chapter by the director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, Nick Hillman, has caused a stir with its proposal that the UK should set a target for 70% of young people to be enrolled in higher education by 2035.

The proposal, found in A New Blue Book, is likely to ruffle the feathers within the Conservative Government, whose policies the publication is aimed at influencing.

Writing in a personal capacity, Hillman contends, “In the context of Brexit, which may mean a reduction in the supply of highly-skilled migrants, and rising life expectancy … we should be planning ahead to increase the time spent in education”.

Drawing comparison to other countries that have successfully raised the level of higher education participation within their societies, such as Canada, South Korea, and Russia who “have all achieved participation way ahead of ours”, Hillman set the ambitious target of “around 70 per cent participation by 2035”.

To determine participation, the UK Government uses the Higher Education Initial Participation Rate (HEIPR), which covers 17- to 30-year-old English participants at UK higher and further education institutions. According to figures released last month, the provisional HEIPR for 2015-16 was at 49 per cent, an increase of 1.4 percentage points on 2014-2015.

One clear way to reach such a bold target would be the continued proliferation of e-learning practices. To address the concerns over the decrease in highly-skilled workers after Brexit and rising life expectancy, there is a clear opportunity for e-learning to answer the questions on how to make higher education more affordable and more accessible for more people. The growing popularity of courses, such as the online MBA, shows that online degree programmes have already cemented their place in the education sector.

It remains to be seen if 70% by 2035 is achievable, but the intention is certainly admirable. In helping to reach the target, e-learning has been increasingly recognised by businesses as a method to upskill elements of a workforce, as well as a way for individuals to fulfil their personal and professional ambitions. If as expected e-learning continues to provide solutions for the increasing challenges in higher education, it is probably that off-campus learning will be a crucial factor in achieving that 70% figure even before 2035.

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