Lifelong learning trumps trendy

September 22, 2016

I write this letter as an employee of the University of Leicester, specifically the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning, a department that the university is trying to close down. I am writing this letter in despair because the reason for the decision to close Lifelong Learning is a strategic one, meaning that the university wants to abandon the face-to-face part-time teaching we do. This leads me to the question, put to me by a journalist, of why is adult learning just not trendy enough for Paul Boyle, our new vice-chancellor?

I think the main problem is that our vice-chancellor just doesn’t understand what we do and have done for 150 years. We provide accessible higher education courses that people can do alongside work or other commitments, for students who can’t attend full-time courses. This is our focus, not an afterthought or an aside to mainstream undergraduate teaching. We run courses such as counselling, a discipline enhanced through greater life-experience; not many 18-year-olds choose to start counselling, yet counsellors are vital to the well-being of the country. We also provide specialised pastoral and study skills support, as adult learners have different needs and experiences to 18-year-olds and often need that extra support to get back into studying, not to mention the fact that it is often second to working or family life. We do this with passion, not only for the subjects we teach but also for the students who we help to achieve a potential they never believed possible. This is why there has been such strong opposition to the closure.

So it appears that what we do in the dark evenings in unassuming classrooms when most academics are at home is not trendy. True, our students will not end up on the university’s posters – they are an unseen side of university life – but they are a pleasure to teach. I have never met groups of such engaged and interested students, nor have I taught students from whom I have learned so much as those I teach at Vaughan. It is wonderful to see the transformations that happen through lifelong learning; students who build up their own confidence and go on to have understanding, acceptance and often careers that they never thought possible. To me it is this that makes adult learning transcend trendy; it makes it vital. This is why for me it is so heart-breaking to see it cut so mindlessly.

Elizabeth Bryant
Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning
University of Leicester


Send to

Letters should be sent to: THE.Letters@tesglobal.com
Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday.
View terms and conditions.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Related universities

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Retired academics calculating moves while playing bowls

Lincoln Allison, Eric Thomas and Richard Larschan reflect on the ‘next phase’ of the scholarly life