I don’t think that there is any mystery about education. I hate the phrase “ability to benefit” that is often used in discussions on widening participation. Most people can get a degree if they really want to. But, as in many other walks of life, you occasionally meet people whose academic ability is striking. Often they are older students, though I suppose that will always be the case if you work in adult education. They are usually different. I have been talking to someone just like that tonight. You get the same sense of desire and ambition mixed with intellect and sometimes a little insecurity. Increasingly what you find is another emotion – frustration. Tonight’s conversation was typical. “Why don’t you do a PhD?” I’d love to but can’t afford it”.
I share the same frustration that this talent is being lost. We need the unusual, original, and passionate voices that are excluded. Most mature students have other commitments that mean that they cannot study full time, but what about part-time study? It is increasingly more expensive and there is little in the way of support available. If part-time postgraduate learning prices out the self-funding and, particularly, the working class student, academia will be the loser and the risk is that the excellent and exceptional will be left outside, thinking of what might have been.