Part time and flexible study

Studying part-time


With approximately 1 in 3 students studying part-time or by distance learning this option may appeal to some of your students. Whilst the majority of these learners are older, an increasing number of younger learners are now studying on a part-time/ flexible basis.  Students who choose this option do so for a variety of reasons and potential benefits:

  • Students who study on a part-time & flexible basis often combine academic study with work, and / or raising a family. For some students it’s not an option, but the only option which fits in with their personal circumstances. 
  • It can be cheaper than full-time study, and for many it provides the opportunity to learn and earn at the same time.
  • Working and studying part-time can provide the student with the chance to put theory learnt into practice, particularly if the course broadly relates to their job. They can also share their experience of work when attending HE lectures, seminars and workshops.
  • Upon completion of their studies, students who worked while studying will have an advantage over many new graduates  in terms of qualifications gained and potentially relevant work experience.

Other things for your learners to consider

All information on funding part time study can be found here.

As with any option there are potential disadvantages (perhaps better described as challenges) that students should be aware of when considering applications. Part-time students often won’t have the time/ be able to access a full range of student life activities. Juggling work and/or raising a family also requires a great deal of motivation as well as effective time management skills.  It’s also worth noting that currently part-time students are not able to access a maintenance loan to support them while studying.

It’s important to note that overall, the number of part-time students has fallen by 38% in five years - from more than 428,000 in 2010-11 to below 266,000 last year (2015), with a particular decrease seen in older learners. The reasons for this are complex, but include the rise in tuition fees, and that students are not offered tuition-fee loans to study for qualifications equivalent or lower than those they already hold, although there are some exceptions, e.g. in STEM related subjects. This has also had a knock-on effect on the supply of part-time courses and some institutions have reduced their part-time offer.


Part-time courses are offered by colleges as well as universities. and include Higher National Diplomas and Certificates, Foundation Degrees and shorter courses, as well as Undergraduate Degrees. Students can study a range of academic and vocational courses which take on average between 4 – 6 years to complete. Part-time courses can be delivered during the day-time, evening or even weekends.

How, when and where they are delivered will vary from institution to institution. For example: Birkbeck, University of London, offers its part-time courses in the evenings. Interestingly it also offers evening-only full-time courses - the main difference being that students attend more classes each week, which enables them to complete their studies in 3 years rather than 4 years, when studying on a part-time basis.  Some part-time courses  combine face-to-face sessions with online learning, usually referred to as blended learning.  Students may also be able to increase or decrease how much they study, which will impact on how long the course takes to complete.

Information on the application process for Part Time qualifications can be found in our Application Support section.

Entry requirements

As with full-time courses, entry requirements for part-time courses will vary. A number of HE institutions offering part-time study value both experience of the world of work and qualifications. How and when (some have several start dates during the year) applicants apply will also vary. They will usually be expected to complete an application, including a personal / supporting statement, and in most cases application is direct to the institution, who will often charge an application fee.

Students will need to research their options carefully, spending time on individual HE institution websites.  At present, UCAS focuses mainly on full-time HE provision, which makes identifying suitable part-time HE providers more challenging. A list of useful websites can be found in the further information section of this website.