Letter: Lifelong variety

January 12, 2001

Alison Utley's piece on lifelong learning last week ("We have ways of making you learn", THES, January 5) did not recognise that lifelong learning is not a unitary concept.

The academics she contacted were all in the old - if not the elite - sector of higher education, and they did not reveal just how many varieties of institutionalised lifelong learning there are.

People in new universities and "providers of learning and skills" (that is, further education colleges) would have made it clear that lifelong learning for adult basic skills in further education runs parallel to vocational courses in colleges and some school sixth forms, different again from academic courses in sixth forms, sixth-form centres or academic centres in colleges leading to university, plus state-subsidised private training, continuing professional development and what is left of local education authority adult education. With modern apprenticeships and traineeships and the various New Deals, this adds up to several varieties of lifelong learning.

Above all, "lifelong learning" that ignores one-third of the 18-21 age range in some form of higher education, together with many more aged 21-plus, cannot be considered lifelong at all.

Patrick Ainley
Reader in learning policy
University of Greenwich

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