I’ve just heard that my old university (the University of Leicester) is about to close the Vaughan Centre (its lifelong learning centre).
I find this very annoying for a range of reasons.
- I believe that lifelong learning is a critical part of our society and economy. The opportunity for adults to return to learning is critical for social mobility and for labour market flexibility. Of course it is important that we have great schools, but there is considerable danger in expecting education between 3-21 to prepare people for a lifetime of change. The opportunity to return to education is critical.
- It seems clear to me that the ‘widening participation’ initiatives of the 1990s and 2000s have largely run their course. While they served and important purpose they often focused on selling HE as the only route for able young people. I think that this was a mixed blessing and the current government’s focus on apprenticeships is likely to mean that HE numbers stop rising. For many people I think that this is a good thing, but just because you don’t want to go to university at 18 shouldn’t mean that you are never able to go. The Vaughan Centre and those like it served a critical purpose in providing people with second chances, alternative routes and the opportunity to do higher education in a different way.
- I have been both a learner and a teacher at the Vaughan Centre (well actually at its predecessor organisation Vaughan College). It was always a fantastic place to study and work and somewhere where it was possible to believe in the humanistic value of education in a way that has become increasingly difficult in our corporatised universities.
- One of my closest friends works at Vaughan and deserves better treatment than the University are offering.
So I’d like to ask readers of this blog for help. If you care about lifelong learning, adult learners and widening participation – please sign the petition to save the Vaughan Centre.