Access the key to HE

June 13, 1997

BROADER access and better local involvement are the mainstays of the new Government's higher education policy, one of its education ministers told a conference this week.

Higher education minister Tessa Blackstone said she was deeply concerned that the numbers of students from different social classes had remained so unequal.

Speaking at a national conference for vice chancellors and training and enterprise chief executives on Wednesday, she said it was vital to improve links between education and business.

The Government wanted to encourage special liaison experts to help generate research contracts, consultancy and technology transfer, and see centres of research excellence set up on a pilot basis. Institutions would work together to provide support and applied research for industry, the professions and public services in certain regions.

Baroness Blackstone said the Department for Education and Employment planned a separate project to invite bids from education institutions and employers for Pounds 8 million of development work from April 1998. The money would help fund two-year projects involving key skills, guidance for graduates, work experience and high-level lifelong learning.

"If we really want to have an economy which is characterised by high skills and high added value, then everyone must become a lifelong learner," she said.

The response to Dearing would depend on the extent to which his recommendations improved access and achievement in further, higher and adult education.

She welcomed increased modularisation and credit accumulation and transfer, using new technologies, because it allowed people to move in and out of education throughout their lifetimes.

Speaking at the same conference, Howard Newby, Southampton University vice chancellor and a CVCP vice-chairman, called for a reformed higher education funding system involving industry contributions, as well as a shared vocabulary describing HE skills.

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