Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Education again

John Denham, interviewed in the Guardian, talks about the source of expansion of student numbers in Higher Education saying,

They will be very different, they won't generally live away from home for three years, they will often study part time rather than full time...

I would be tempted to suggest that this is an exercise in post-modernist irony as funding policy is decisively slanted to discriminate precisely against this group. But then it becomes clear what is meant:

Around 30,000 new places will be co-funded by employers as part of the plan, which aims to refocus the culture and purpose of higher education.

Undergraduates on the new business-focussed courses will be expected to complete work experience as part of their degree. They will study for two intensive years, rather than over three years with long holidays.

So the fetishising of business continues at the expense of adult learners studying what they want, whilst the reality in adult education is rather neatly displayed in this piece. And do I really want my culture refocused?

It is worth reading Harry Barnes here. Old adult educationalists never lose their commitment to the cause. Having worked in adult education for 25 years, I would say that it can be astonishingly moving and humbling and for it to be so under-appreciated is heartbreaking.


Francis Sedgemore said...

This is interesting. Back in February I posted a short critique of an opinion piece in New Scientist magazine by Alan Jones, chairman of the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies (Semta).

Jones was complaining about the lack of vocational training in university degree courses. And this was part of Semta's lobbying of academe and government to subsidise job training that industry is unwilling to pay for itself.

And the latest from John Denham confirms this all too clearly. So industry is willing to chip-in, it seems, but at the same time it is dipping its hands into taxpayers' pockets. And no doubt it will be the government that picks up the bulk of the tab for these new university places.

The Plump said...

And please note - we do not know if companies are willing to co-fund 30,000 new students, only that the government are proposing that they do.

Harry Barnes said...

Hat tip to you - http://threescoreyearsandten.blogspot.com/2008/04/destruction-of-adult-education.html

Paulie said...

Not directly apropos this post Gadge, but I do think that adult education is one of the handful of core issues that no-one can ignore. As you know, I have one that I bang on about all the time (representative government) and one that I bang on about some of the time (diversity of cultural output).

But adult education should be my (everyones?) third obsession, and I've been looking for an example of a good essay that says so.

Any pointers?

Francis Sedgemore said...


Have you seen the interview with John Denham in the 5 April issue of New Scientist? Unfortunately this devotes rather a lot of space to Denham's support for biometric ID cards, but there is also a bit on the move to more applied science research:

"I intend to be a vigorous defender of the value of fundamental research, I think, though, that the government needs to tackle a slightly different area: creating the right environment and culture around our research institutions and universities so that knowledge with a practical application isn't left unexploited as purely a matter of intellectual interest."

While this does not concern continuing education, I think it says something about the mental gymnastics currently being practised in the gymnasia of the British government.

The Plump said...

I hadn't seen it Francis, but what strikes me is that we are faced by continuous pronouncements that utterly divorced from the day-to-day reality faced by practitioners.