Mature students facing shake-up at Sheffield university

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Major changes to courses for mature students are being considered by University of Sheffield leaders today – amid claims the programme is facing serious cutbacks.

Students have launched an online petition protesting against proposals due to take effect from September at The Institute for Lifelong Learning – TILL.

They say the plans coming before the University Senate are being finalised without proper consultation and will deny access to higher education for many Sheffield people.

But the university denies the accusations, saying the number of part-time university programmes available will be significantly increased.

TILL students’ councillor Tracey Lee said the exact nature of the changes had not been revealed.

“Decisions are being finalised without student input. This university is supposed to be hot on widening participation, yet they are restricting the department that does the most in this area,” she said.

“A lot of TILL students work full time and so are unable to learn in the daytime, while any loss of evening classes will restrict most of the potential TILL students.

“We want any decisions to be delayed until proper consultations have been carried out.”

Two meetings with students have been held, with the university pointing to falling demand nationally for part-time undergraduate education.

One student said: “The attitude has been, ‘here are the proposals, take it or leave it’. I’ve been studying for a BSc for seven years – it seems they will honour commitments to existing students but really they want us to finish and get out of the way.”

But Professor Paul White, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of learning and teaching, said: “The university is actively pursuing a significant increase to the breadth of our offer of part-time undergraduate programmes and access to them through new foundation year opportunities which will build confidence and skills for mature students who do not have traditional entry qualifications.

“We are already working on a major expansion to our foundation programme for 2014 entry, with the introduction of new full-time routes to complement existing courses.

“The new plans will also substantially enhance opportunities for students to study at both certificate and degree level on a part-time basis. TILL will also offer an extended range of Certificates in Higher Education.”