Lifelong Learning and the University: A Post-Dearing Agenda

Lifelong Learning and the University: A Post-Dearing Agenda

Lifelong Learning and the University: A Post-Dearing Agenda

Lifelong Learning and the University: A Post-Dearing Agenda


This book gives a description of what a UK higher education system that is genuinely part of a national learning society might look like, as well as the impetus this provides for radical reform.


The CVCP has published its considered response to the Dearing Report in A New Partnership: Universities, Students, Business and the Nation (CVCP, 1997e). Like David Watson and Richard Taylor, I feel that the controversies that led up to the National Committee of Inquiry, the Report itself, and a range of positive reactions to it (including from the CVCP) have inspired a powerful sense of potential renewal. But, like them, I also know that all of the main partners in the higher education enterprise have to play their parts if this sense of renewal is not to be dissipated and replaced by cynicism or (even worse) indifference.

The main contribution of their work is that it takes the key issues—of changes in society, culture and work, of national needs (for high quality education throughout life as well as creative and effective research), of government policy (not least on funding), and of changes in the contemporary map of knowledge—and draws them into the everyday life of universities and colleges. in different ways higher education has always been engaged with such issues, but often slowly, selectively, and until recently almost always on its own terms. Watson and Taylor show how aspects of this response, and elements of the corresponding internal culture of universities themselves, will have to change in order for higher education to play its full part in the learning society.

They are equally strong on aspects of university life in which both continuity and restoration are vital. the autonomy of institutions and the freedom of individual thinkers have between them given great service to a society needing special places for reflection and fundamental research. These places, and the circumstances that enable them to thrive, must be maintained. the authors are fully committed to this proposition, but also demonstrate how access to and participation in the dialogue which is at the heart of higher education can, and should, be extended and made more democratic. in this sense the call by the Universities Association for Continuing Education (UACE), for ce genuinely to be in the mainstream, is persuasive.

Finally, they have provided the added bonus of offering a detailed, early analysis of the impact of the specific recommendations in the Dearing Report on lifelong learning in and through higher education. Like the cvcp, they have misgivings about the strength of the new arrangements for part-time students and the detail of proposals for further support from business. Also like the cvcp they find the majority of the recommendations running with the grain of best practice and historical commitments within the sector. Their chief worries,

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