Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Education news

Two calls for the reform of higher education have come from the reported comments of two vice-chancellors who are sympathetic to lifelong learning.

First up is Christine King, stressing the importance of part-time learning and decrying its marginalisation. I would have fully agreed if she hadn't relied on some depressing tropes to justify her position. The guff on the knowledge economy, portfolio working, and the link to economic prosperity doesn't stand up to empirical examination. And the picture of "a generation of young and mature students who work in cyberspace" is a fiction that diverts us away from the real purpose of part-time learning, equity.

The people who become part-time students are not insomniac, workaholic geeks who seeks 24 hour library access and extended teaching times. Instead, they are low paid workers, people who have missed out, people on benefits, people with families who cannot afford to stop working to study or run up the associated debts, people improving themselves, in short, people who want something better from life. And all they want is a university that welcomes them.

And so it was good to turn to Peter Scott attacking "Managerialist bullshit", "false market rhetoric" and "low-level government tinkering", whilst arguing for a renewed social democratic commitment to higher education to be resuced from the ashes of the financial crisis. In fact, put the two together and you have a pretty good argument for a University system that is worthy of the hopes and dreams of the people who pay for it. Though for those of us who work in lifelong learning, it seems ever more remote.

Thanks to Mike and Daniel

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