How To Understand The History Of Part Time Business Studies

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The Vocational Aspect of Education

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Part-time business studies degree graduates—Some background results

Tom Bourner



Brighton Polytechnic

Published online: 28 Feb 2007.

To cite this article: Tom Bourner (1982) Part-time business studies degree graduates—Some background results, The Vocational Aspect of Education, 34:89, 77-82, DOI: 10.1080/10408347308001751

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Part-Time Business Studies Degree Graduates Some Background



Tom Bourner works at Brighton Polytechnic.


The decade of the 1970's saw a significant development in the provision of part-time business studies degree courses in the public sector of higher education so that by 1980 sixteen such courses were in operation. This paper is concerned with the background characteristics of the graduates of these courses. It reports the results of a questionnaire study of the 121 students who graduated from the first one (at Middlesex Polytechnic) between 1973 and 1979.

Information is presented on the following: age at time of graduating, sex, domestic circumstances, occupational mobility, family background, graduates'perceptions of the contribution of their degrees in terms of both obtaining employment and job performance, relative degree classification and subsequent studies.

I Introduction

The first part-time degree in Business Studies validated by the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) was introduced at Enfield College o f Technology (now part of Middlesex Polytechnic) in 1969. The decade of the 1970's witnessed a burgeon- ing of part-time business studies degrees within the public sector of higher education (mostly at Poly- technics) so that by the end of the 1970's sixteen such courses were in operation. The majority have been established since 1976 as the following table shows.

TABLE 1 CNAA Part-time business studies degrees 1968-80

Number of Enrolments

Year ending courses First year Total

1969 1 37 37

1970 1 104 141

1971 1 74 154

1972 1 57 148

1973 2 78 171

1974 3 109 225

1975 4 155 280

1976 7 271 436

1977 10 383 715

1978 10 304 748

1979 13 430 926

1980 16 537 1164

Source: CNAA Annual Reports 1969-80

These courses are normally of five years duration.

There is however often sufficient flexibility to allow the student to take longer if required or to commute the final two years of part-time study by one of full-time study. Appreciation of the domestic and professional difficulties that confront the part-time student in attempting to sustain high-level study over such a long period has led some colleges to provide for the award of a certificate or diploma on successful completion of the preliminary or intermediate stages of the


A s this development in adult higher education moves into its second decade it seems an appropriate time to enquire into the backgrounds of the students enrolled on these courses. The C N A A normally requires entrants to be aged at least twenty-one which means that almost all of the students necessarily have some work experience. Most of the courses pursue an open entry policy for mature students so that wastage during the first year is usually high. Students w h o are able to cope with part-time degree level study arc effectively scif-sclccted at an early stage on these

c o u r s e s .

This paper is concerned with the background characteristics of students who successfully graduate.

It reports the results of a questionnaire study of the 121 students who graduated from the first of these courses (at Middlesex Polytechnic) between 1973 and 1979. By 1979 the other part-time degrees in Business Studies were only just starting to produce graduates so


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that the 121 graduates from Middlesex Polytechnic comprised almost two-thirds of the total from all institutions combined over this period.

The study was undertaken as part of an in- vestigation into the t'maneial implications for the students of completing the final stage of the degree by one year of full-time study rather than two years of part-time study. The main objective of the question- naire ~vas to obtain a bank of information to assist in counselling students on the part-time degree course considering completing the degree course by full-time attendance (see Bourner, 1979). It also provided an opportunity to gather additional information on the backgrounds and experience of the graduates that would have been difficult to obtain by other means.

Of the 121 questionnaires, 20 were returned by the G.P.O. noting that the addressee had gone away (or similar) and no doubt some of the remaining 101 questionnaires also failed to reach their addressees but were not returned. 51 questionnaires were completed so that the response rate was at least 50% (treating the 101 unreturned questionnaires as the population at risk). In some cases the questionnaires were only partially completed as very personal information was being sought on such matters as past and current income and mortgage arrangements. In interpreting the information given below, it should be borne in mind that the non-respondents comprised a disproportion- ately large number of the earlier graduates and probably also comprised a disproportionate number of the most geographically mobile.

Part-Time Business Studies Degree Graduates

Results Age

The average age of students on the degree at the time of graduation was 34 years (standard deviation: 8.6 years). This implies that the 'typical' student will have had over ten years of industrial/commercial experience before commencing the course.


The degree has to date proved far more attractive to males than to females as the list below shows:


Year Graduates

Male Female

1973 ! 0

1974 36 1

1975 11 1

1976 21 0

1977 34 3

1978 17 1

1979 18 2

Tab~ 1. Sex c o m p o s ~ n

Domestic circumstances

Over three quarters of the graduates of the degree have been married. Whilst a stable family base can facilitate the student's academic progress, there is little doubt that for some students on the course domestic problems have had a disruptive impact on their studies.

About half of the graduates have had young children at home as the following figure shows:

2 5 -

2 0 "



E = 1 0 Z

5 - (22)


N = 5 1



0 1 2 3 4

Number of Children

(0) 5

Figure 1 Domestic Circumstances: Children

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Of those students who are married, a little over half (53.8%) have had their spouse working outside the home. This figure is presumably related to the proportion of students who have young children.

Finally, it was found that over three quarters of the students were repaying house mortgages at the time at which they graduated.

Occupational mobility

Even allowing for the fact that the most mobile students will most probably have been among the non-respondents, the following table indicates a surprisingly high level of occupational stability.

This figure suggests that Middlesex Polytechnic part- time Business Studies degree has proved attractive to students from social backgrounds which are not well-represented in higher education in Britain. In the returns on 'fathers job/occupation' skilled manual employments were particularly well-represented. This may be contrasted with the information on family background of students completing CNAA sandwich degrees in Business Studies published by P.E.P. (1975) where it was found that the overwhelming majority (76%) had fathers whose occupation was in social class I, II or III of the Registrar General's classification.



(a) Whilst completing degree 38 8 3 0 0 0

(b) Within 1 year of completing degree 45 5 0 1 0 0

Table 2 Occupational Mobility

Family background

Information was sought on the age at which the fathei"

of each graduate left full-time education. For over seventy per cent of the graduates this was fifteen years of age or younger.

Mode of completion of degree

The graduates were asked: 'Do you feel that in terms of your career, your degree would have been more valuable if it had been acquired on a full-time or sandwich course rather than on a part-time course?'


2 5 -

2 0 -

~ 15-



~ 10

5 ¸ 5 4 . 2 %


14 o r l e s s

N = 4 8


T 1 o

1 5 " 1 6 ' 17 '

4 . 2 % 4 . 2 %

2.1% 2.1% 2,1%

'=' I '=' I , ,,

I (11 I (11


18 19 2 0 21 22

or more

Figure 2 Age at which Father Completed Full-time Education

A g e

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45 students (88.2%) replied 'no' to this question and 6 (11.8%) responded affirmatively. Three of the latter added comments of explanation: 'joining degree one year earlier would have been an advantage', 'would have got a higher classification' and 'would have been younger with more time to study'. It seems clear that most students do not feel disadvantaged by the fact that they have a qualification to which the label 'part-time' is appended.

Graduates perception o f the usefulness o f the degree content

Graduates were asked the following question: 'How would you assess the contribution of the content of your degree in terms of obtaining jobs and job performance?' They were asked to tick one of the boxes as follows:

Essential Very useful Useful Of little use Not useful at all

The results are shown below:

Part-Time Business Studies Degree Graduates

As can be seen in Figure 3, one student felt that the degree had not been helpful at all in obtaining employment. She added the comment that she was over-qualified ( - - s h e had proceeded from the part- time degree to successfully complete a Masters degree).

Further studies

Students were asked to state any other educational courses undertaken since graduation. The list below comprises those mentioned among the 51 completed questionnaires. (It should be noted that some of the students had graduated only months before the questionnaire and so had had very little chance to pursue further study after graduation).

1. German language course

2. M.Sc. Operational Research (full-time) 3. Chartered Accountancy


5. Chartered Institute of Secretaries 6. I.C.A.E.W.

7. Chartered Accountant Training contract 8. Courses in French and German

9. Chartered;Insurance Institute

10. Masters degree in Public & Social Ad- ministration (Brunel University)

I 1. HNC Computer Studies

12. B.Mus. (Goldsmiths College, London University)




... i!iiiiiiii! is





iiiiiiiiiiiii~|ii!iiJiiiiiiiiii 8.9%

~l~i: 2.2%

I I ! I I I

0 5 10 15 20 25

Figure 3 Contribution of Degree Content: Obtaining Jobs

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58 9 ¢





O 5 10 15 20

Number of graduates

Figure 4 Contribution of Degree Content: Job Performance

25 30 35

13. M.B.A. (London Graduate Business School) 14. M.B.A. and Doctorate (Cranfield)

15. M.Phil. (City University) 16. A.C.M.A.

17. B.Se. (Hons.) Engineering (Southampton University)

18. M.A. Organisation Psychology 19. I.P.M.

20. M.B.A. (Crantield) and I.P.M.

21. I.C.M.A.

22. I.C.A.

23. M.A. in Government & Politics at City of London Polytechnic

This indicates a strong inclination to proceed to further study and may be contrasted with Bourner (1981)

where it is shown that graduates of full-time and sandwich degrees at UK universities and polytechnics have a much lower tendency to proceed to research or further academic study than graduates of other disciplines.

3 Degree Classifications

It may help put the observations of this paper in context to present a summary of the degree classes awarded to part-time Business Studies degree gradu- ates. Table 4 displays this information for Middlesex Polytechnic for both part-time and also for full-time degree graduates. Table 5 gives the corresponding results for all institutions combined.

T A B L E 4

1st 2.1 2.2

% % %

Middlesex Poly. Part-time, 1972-80; 10.9 35.5 44.2

Middlesex Poly. Full-time, 1968-79; 2.2 28.3 55.5

Table 3: Middlesex Polytechnic Business Studies Honours degree awards.

3rd Total graduates

% % No.

9.4 100.0 138 14.0 100.0 624

Source: Middlesex Polytechnic course records.

1st 2.1 2.2

% % %

All C N A A Part-time, 1972-79; 10.7 36.6 43.6

All C N A A Full-time, 1972-79; 2.5 28.9 55.6

Table 4: All CNAA Business Studies Honours degree awards.

3rd Total graduates

% % No.

9.1 100.0 186 13.0 100.0 4668

Source: 'Part-time Degree Courses in Business Studies: An Analysis' CNAA (1980).

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In both tables the proportion of part-time students awarded 'good' degrees (i.e. firsts and upper seconds) exceeds 45% whereas for their full-time counterparts the proportions are only just over 3096. Lest there he any concern about comparability of standards it may be noted that normally where an institution offers both a part-time and a full-time C N A A Business Studies degree the same external examiners are adopted for both courses. Moreover in the case of Middlesex Polytechnic the 'finals' papers for the part-time and full-time Business Studies degrees are identical (although there are differences in the two courses below the level of the final stage of the degree), These results would seem to cast doubt on the notion that 'more means, worse'. In the context of extension of provision of part-tlme degrees in Business Studies it seems clear that more means better,

4 Conclusion

The study sought to obtain a profile of some of the background characteristics of successful graduates of

Part-Time Business Studies Degree Graduates C N A A part-time business studies degrees. The results suggest an 'identikit' picture of a married male in his early thirties making mortgage repayments whose parental home was working class. There is a fairly high probability that the graduate has young children at home and that, if married, has a spouse working outside of the home. Most graduates did not feel disadvantaged by the 'part-time' tag on their degree certificates and found their degree studies helpful both in finding employment and in job performance. Their average class of degree was above that for graduates of full-time business studies degree courses and they revealed a high propensity to proceed to further academic study. This paper also indicated the extent of the variation about these generalisations.

Since there are no obvious apriori reasons to expect that the part-time business studies degree at Middlesex Polytechnic attracts atypical part-time business-studies degree students it is hoped that these results carry a substantial measure of generality.

References Bourner, T. (1979). 'The Cost of Completing a

Part-time Degree by Full-time Study', Higher Education Review, Vol 12, No 1 pages 55-69.

Bourntr, T. (1981). 'The Employment of Business G r a d u a t e s - - A Sectoral Analysis', Business Education Forthcoming (Spring).

C N A A (1969-80). Annual Reports.

C N A A (1980). 'Part-time Degree Courses in Business Studies: an Analysis' Mimeo.

Daniel, W. and Pugh, H. (1975). 'Sandwich Courses in Higher Education: P.E.P. Report on C N A A Degrees in Business Studies', Vol X L I Broadsheet No 557. Political and Economic Planning.

(Article received: January 1982)

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