The Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL) is the leading Association for higher education policy and practice in lifelong learning, part-time provision and public engagement, with recognition by Government as a consultative body for institutions and students. The overall aim of the Association is advocacy and good practice in lifelong learning for higher education providers both from within the UK and internationally. We have around 60 universities in membership within the UK and around 20 international members.
UALL members, therefore, represent all aspects of the sector within and beyond universities. Of particular concern to us are adult learners, part-time learners and those from non-traditional backgrounds.
We very much welcome the proposal to provide funding opportunities for post-graduate students but we have major concerns over the proposal that loans would only be available to those under the age of 30. We strongly believe that this approach would create disadvantage for a large number of students who could benefit from postgraduate study at a later stage in their lives, and could be discriminatory from an equality perspective, albeit unintentionally.
The types of learner who would be discriminated against particularly are those who have entered formal higher education later than the norm of 18 or who have taken different routes into study. At particular risk would be those who have taken time out to raise families, look after elderly relatives or vulnerable others. Some adult learners, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, may take longer to adapt to study but when they do can be extremely successful and progress to doctoral level. Our experience suggests also that students who come from being in care themselves are likely to experience finance as a barrier to postgraduate study. Disabled students and those from low income backgrounds are also likely to be deterred from study at an early age.
The other area of concern is that the proposal is restricted to particular subject areas and types of qualification. Some groups of adult learners, part-time learners and ad hoc learners would not benefit from these proposals, since they are targeted at full masters’ qualifications. Support should be made available at the level of the postgraduate certificate and diploma courses and ideally at the level of the module.
We support the proposals to encourage new partnerships across the sector which should involve lifelong learning provision in universities. Such partnerships have much potential in promoting progression through and across sectors in areas such as STEM subject development and vocational training. Anything which promotes innovative partnerships and which enhances and promotes stronger community regeneration through learning and skills development is greatly to be welcomed.
We would encourage the review of post-graduate funding also to consider the training and re-training needs of older adults within an ageing workforce as well as the need for high quality training of adult educators to address deficits such as literacy and numeracy, skills in use of technology and technology enhanced learning.
Dr Rob Mark
UALL Honorary Secretary