It was our lifelong learning presentation evening tonight for a whole series of awards other than full degrees. It was a lovely occasion once more. Though we do get dressed up, it is less stiff than the depressing formality of full graduation. We have wine, food and laughs. It is a real celebration of achievement.
Selected students give little speeches; the bus driver with her award in trade union representation, the creative writing student who had fulfilled a dream, the youth and community worker now qualified, and so many more. I was able to fit in a reference to Patrick Geddes in my short speech, an implicit criticism of current adult education policy. The most telling moment was with a group of students who could not be there to collect their awards, they are in prison. Their tutor accepted the certificates on their behalf and said that of two hundred offenders that had been through the programme only two had re-offended, when the national rate for recidivism is 70%. That is the power of adult education.
So where does the shame come in? It is because of the fact that instead of cherishing something so wonderful, instead of investing in it, it is all under threat and being attacked by the erosion of funding. In England, one million four hundred thousand funded places have been lost outside the universities. Inside higher education, part time learning, already at a disadvantage, is being hit by the removal of funding for people studying for an equivalent or lower level qualification to one they hold already. Departments are closing and provision is being lost. This is indeed something to be ashamed of.