Embedding a culture of lifelong learning in our society will be a game-changer. Essential to that is accessible part-time, flexible higher education. Recognising its value and prioritising its growth is key to addressing skills shortages, economic productivity, regional imbalances, and social inclusion.
The Northern Ireland Assembly should introduce a Lifelong Learning Bill so that anyone can access learning when they need it.
Part-time students should have access to loans that cover the full cost of the course, maintenance support and the childcare grant.
A ring-fenced skills fund that transcends annual budgets will help us build a modern, prosperous, and more sustainable economy.
The Open University is rooted in communities, responding to local need through our work with Further Education Colleges, Knowledge Exchange Programmes, Business Partnerships, Community Partnerships Project. I am proud that The Open University has risen to the challenges of recent years and supported our students and the communities they live in. Part of rebuilding and recovering in the future will be filling the skills gaps in our economy, empowering local businesses, and workers, helping to build better lives for all our citizens, addressing the climate emergency and ensuring a just transition to a net-zero economy. To make this reality we need to make part-time further and higher education meaningfully accessible.John Darcy
Director of The Open University in Ireland