Dearing calls for world partners

October 23, 1998

THE question of how lifelong learning can be financed without increased government spending was raised by Lord Dearing in Melbourne last week.

Speaking at the University of Melbourne, Lord Dearing said that while some of the cost of lifelong education would be met by the employer "out of self-interest", the interests of employee and employer did not necessarily coincide.

In Britain, this was leading to an examination of the concept of an individual learning account funded in part by the individual, in part by the state and in part by the employer.

"This move in thinking towards the individual and away from the state as the buyer of education and training is an interesting area for exploration as we face up to the cost of mass tertiary education for life," Lord Dearing said.

But while it was necessary to find ways of reducing dependence on the state, the goal should not be to replace government funding as the major source of finance for higher education but to "powerfully supplement it".

"In the provision of postgraduate and lifelong learning we have a major opportunity as, increasingly, enterprises and public bodies respond to their own need to become learning societies in order to sustain their competitiveness and effectiveness," he said.

"They have a basic choice, whether to develop the capability in-house, to rely on external courses, or for a partnership with universities - not necessarily in one country but across the main countries in which they have operations."

Lord Dearing believee the optimum approach would be a partnership in which the university was the prime figure. A similar opportunity existed with professional bodies although, given their nationwide coverage, this could involve collaboration between the main contracting university and a network of supporting institutions.

"The prizes will go to those institutions that move quickly, that have a disposition to welcome partnership with industry, and that have formed a network of collaborating universities whose geographical spread matches that of the global corporation."

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