A learning society?

Since about the late 1980s, one of the key assumptions of all higher education planning has been that university education would not in future be mainly focused on the learner progression of school leavers but would be available to people at various stages of their lives and for different reasons. The concept of ‘lifelong learning’ was born, and it informed a good bit of education policy over the ensuing decades.

But has something changed? In the reporting of a noticeable drop in university applications in Ireland just now, one element of this that has received special mention is the decline in applications by mature students. This has been put down in part to the current economic recovery, which it is suggested has made continuing education less attractive to those already in employment.

But this decline in mature student numbers has not been unique to Ireland. In England the decline has been attributed to the impact of tuition fees.

Whatever the reason, if we are going to see fewer mature students (usually referred to as ‘adult learners’ in the United States) then this will have an impact on planning in higher education at various levels. It is time to re-state what public policy actually is in this area, and how it can best be realised.

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2 Comments on “A learning society?”

  1. paulmartin42 Says:

    In Scotland the reduction in funding of FE led to a focusing there on younger students & a decline in mature ones – some of whom progress to Uni. When I taught at Aberdeen College the older students provided both a calming and pastoral benefit.

    This mistake has been reversed lately.

  2. Vincent Says:

    I think the notion was good. What’s the pity is no one actually realistically actioned the idea.
    The uni’s needed to have bold on courses that were free, accessible outside the walls, ahead of the curve, and time aware. None of those things happened. There weren’t free, rarely could you find a course given outside beyond the odd charity outreach programme. What is available is rarely connected to what’s current, is incredible costly in time and regards those that attend as a source of money.
    Rarely nowadays will a graduate up-skilling have enough reserves to devote two or three years to study.


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