LESLIE Wagner, vice-chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University, said this week that the lifelong learning debate made the case for merging further and higher education stronger than ever.
"If learning really is to become the key driver for education then we simply do not need to separate the systems and the funding centres," he said. "We may need different levels of qualifications but we do not need them to be limited to one sector or the other."
Professor Wagner was speaking at "Making the Leap to Lifelong learning", a seminar part-sponsored by The THES where delegates questioned whether the shift towards a learning society was unavoidable, inevitable or even desirable.
"It may not be desirable if the only motive is to expand the economy," said Terence Karran of Lincolnshire and Humberside University who led the debate.
"After all, the largest group of learners are likely to be early retirers who may simply want to learn for leisure."
Lifelong learning ought, he said, to be about improving individuals' quality of life rather than the standard of living.
One of the biggest hurdles was thought to lie in persuading students to manage their own learning. "This process needs to start well before students arrive at degree-level study," Dr Karran said. "It is a tall order for many academics to achieve never mind new students."