Beyond the practical

October 22, 2009

In illustrating courses that have "an obvious pay-off in employment terms" and thus merit support, Alan Ryan ("Practical implications", 8 October) instances a six-month paralegal training course. He then further marginalises vocationally relevant higher education by referring to instruction in practical skills.

Such instruction has an important part to play, but my experience of higher education in the built environment disciplines suggests that rigorous educational experiences, set in a vocational context, can provide students with the intellectual challenge that characterises true higher education, while at the same time - for those who choose to enter the vocational field concerned - playing a valuable role in improving professional and industrial practice. This goes well beyond practical skills.

Higher education can and should always contribute to immediate employability - but its true purposes are wider, longer and deeper.

John Bale, Councillor, Guiseley and Rawdon ward, Leeds City Council.

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