Work-Based Learning: A New Higher Education?

Work-Based Learning: A New Higher Education?

Work-Based Learning: A New Higher Education?

Work-Based Learning: A New Higher Education?


Work-based learning is a radical approach to the notion of higher education. Students undertake study for a degree or diploma primarily in their workplace and their learning opportunities are not contrived for study purposes but arise from normal work. The role of the university is to equip and qualify people already in employment to develop lifelong learning skills, not through engagement with existing disciplines, bodies of knowledge or courses defined by the university, but through a curriculum unique for each person. The organizations in which students work benefit directly through projects that advance the enterprise as well as contributing to student learning. The arrangement is a three-way partnership - involving organization, learner and university. In this arrangement, individuals' learning is linked to the strategic goals of the organization, together with the knowledge and experience they bring to the learning. The key responsibility at the university is the recognition, assessment and accreditation of the learning.

Work-based Learning is the first comprehensive book on this major innovation and:

• locates work-based learning as part of major changes influencing universities

• includes contributions from many of the pioneers of work-based learning

• provides accessible accounts of the teaching, learning and assessment practices involved

• examines the impact of this innovation on the institutions in which it is introduced

• explores the changes in academic work practices associated with work-based learning and the challenges these present to academics


David Boud, Nicky Solomon and Colin Symes

Higher education is in the midst of an unprecedented era of change. Governments are keen to reduce public expenditure. There are demands to increase the numbers and diversity of students. Alongside these continuing imperatives looms a crisis in the nature of the knowledge for which universities previously stood. Innovative responses are required, but the forms and magnitude of the innovations needed go far beyond what has been contemplated to date.

This book is located as part of these major challenges to higher education. It deals with one of the responses that these challenges have provoked – the move to new forms of work-based learning (WBL). None of us know whether this will turn out to be a major or a minor part of the response of higher education institutions to the challenges they are facing. We do know, though, that it is one of the very few innovations related to the teaching and learning aspects of post-secondary education that is attempting to engage seriously with the economic, social and educational demands of our era. In doing so, it provides a fundamental challenge to existing practices and provides new possibilities for post-secondary pedagogy and education.

What is this work-based learning and what is it trying to do? What examples exist of the practices it is promoting? What are the issues involved? What problems and difficulties need to be addressed if it is to be effective? These are some of the themes that this book addresses. Its contributors are drawn from among the pioneers of work-based learning in the UK and Australia. They examine what has been achieved in the way of workbased learning and what is the nature of the new learning practices that are emerging. It has been written alongside Working Knowledge: The New Vocationalism and Higher Education (Symes and Mclntyre 2000). This book also considers work-based learning, but in a somewhat broader context, addressing the socio-economic forces which have given rise to this innovation and have helped to make it part of the landscape of higher education. Both books are the outcomes of the same research group, Research on Adult and Vocational Learning (RAVL), a key university research strength at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).

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