Dearing needs to ensure equal support

September 19, 1997

Stella Parker and Richard Taylor plead for the needs of all in continuing education to be met

The Universities Association for Continuing Education welcomes the Dearing committee's central commitment to lifelong learning and particularly welcomes those areas of the report that stress the importance of part-time students in the emerging system. But we were disappointed that the report fails to recommend that all higher education students should be treated equally, irrespective of whether they are part-time or full-time, whether they are studying for awards or for discrete, credit-bearing modules.

We welcome Dearing's emphasis on the need to ensure high- quality teaching and learning and UACE is pleased that the report recommends extending access and accessibility and widening participation. The specific financial support suggested for disabled students, for the unemployed and for those groups currently under-represented in universities, is especially important. There is, however, a lack of detail in the report on proposed mechanisms and incentives for ensuring that these aims are realised.

We recognise and support the vital contribution that the further education sector makes directly to higher education and understand the case for the growth of sub-degree level higher education to be located in further education colleges. But we would draw attention to the value of partnership arrangements between higher and further education, for example, through access schemes and validation arrangements. These could and should be greatly developed, in the context of regional collaboration and partnership.

Continuing education already has a key role in many institutions in the development of lifelong learning. This should be greatly developed in the new context, encompassing undergraduate and postgraduate modular programmes and awards, and the full range of continuing professional development.

UACE believes that the central thrust of the Dearing report - to create a quality-assured higher education system committed to lifelong learning - requires more detailed and explicit articulation. To this end, UACE plans to contribute to the work of the national advisory group for continuing education and lifelong learning, chaired by Bob Fryer, as it advises the Government on the drafting of the forthcoming white paper on lifelong learning.

Stella Parker is vice chair and Richard Taylor is secretary of the Universities Association for Continuing Education.

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