Dons warn over expansion

September 10, 1999

Continued expansion of higher education is misguided, two of the government's most prominent education advisers have warned.

John Field and Tom Schuller, members of the advisory group that has helped draft lifelong learning legislation, warned at a London School of Economics seminar this week that students are being "warehoused" into formal learning, and are conditioned to believe that they have "finished" with learning after graduating with low-level, largely irrelevant, higher education qualifications.

"There is hyperinflation of lower level academic qualifications that do not meet labour market requirements," said Professor Field. "It could even have a negative effect, strengthening the belief that you can cram people into intermediate education rather than encourage them to learn through life and take learning breaks."

It is understood that during the next Parliament ministers hope to increase participation in higher education from about 33 per cent to about 40 per cent of 18-year-olds. But Professor Field and Professor Schuller, of Birkbeck College, London, believe that even the current participation rate may be too high.

Professors Schuller and Field also criticised ministers' plans

for radical reform of post-16

education, with a new National Learning and Skills Council replacing the Further Education Funding Council and the Training and Enterprise Councils. They argued the plans represent an unwelcome centralisation of control over the planning and administration of further education and training.

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