Gordon, in his position as the Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Further Education and Lifelong Learning has commented on the announcement by the Open University of £7 million losses amidst a huge decline in student numbers.
He said the Open University announcement merely underlines the very fragile and worrying situation for lifelong learning in general and part-time HE learning in particular.
"Drops in student numbers and the Open University’s losses are simply further evidence of the neglect and dire straits currently facing adult and part-time learners in Higher Education. They come on the back of dramatic falls in people taking up part time HE courses, not just at the Open University, but at a whole range of other HE institutions, following the tripling of tuition fees by the previous coalition government. We have seen Lifelong learning in the UK decline by 21 per cent in the past eight years whilst there has been a 15 per cent rise across the rest of Europe.
"The Government have belatedly started to produce some remedies with the introduction of their plan to extend maintenance loans to part-time students but as today’s figures show, adult learning needs bread and butter today not some potential Jam in 2018-19 when it’s too late."
Gordon went on to say: "This also shows just how wrong Government were to cut maintenance grants for both younger and mature disadvantaged students, with student numbers already on the decline and no light at the end of the tunnel.
"Meanwhile in the Further Education sector the Government is pressing on with cuts which leave FE students highly vulnerable. In February 2015, a cut of 24% was announced to the adult skills budget (ASB) for learning outside of apprenticeships, estimated to lead to the loss of around 400,000 learning opportunities. In July, a further 3.9% of in-year savings were announced to the Adult Skills Budget, taking the total drop in adult skills funding to almost 40% since 2009. They then followed this by threatening £360 million worth of “efficiencies” in the adult skills budget outside apprenticeships.
"As a former Open University tutor myself I know first-hand how lifelong and part-time learning is able to changes lives but the government is so focused on making savings and cuts to fit artificial austerity targets this is working to the detriment of students. Unfortunately it is their potential and life chances for which our social cohesion and economic growth that will pay a heavy price."