In the Herald

Here we are on the new Save ACE blog. What’s on our minds? Possibly Professor Muscatelli’s interview with the Herald two weeks ago. There’s a lot to think about in there but our eyes are on that paragraph about adult education at the end. It’s such a short paragraph yet there’s so much to say!

I cannot understand why he thinks there are courses that are “disconnected from the rest of the university”. Academics, researchers and research students from across the rest of the university contribute to all the ACE programmes. They are all quality assured in the usual manner of university courses, with external examiners from other universities, exam boards, etc. Often the external examiners are the same people who do this job in the mainstream departments. There are discussions with colleagues in the mainstream departments every year at programme planning time. These are “university programmes”; just aimed at people who are not doing a degree full-time.

The CertHE and ACE courses, and the Quality Assurance machinery that goes with them, have their roots in the Funding Council’s (then the SHEFC’s) review of continuing education in the mid-1990s. DACE staff thought about how to respond to the resulting changes and agreed the workings and constitution of these programmes with the Senate Office. At that time the university was happy to support these developments. Continuing education was still seen by management as something that did the University credit, as an important ingredient of its relationship with the wider community. Now, to read Professor Muscatelli’s words, one would think that there was some cheating going on, that “money that we received for undergraduate students” was being used for something else in an underhand way. It’s hard to know why the attitude at Senior Management Group level changed since none of them has ever met the staff involved in the ACE programmes face to face, to discuss the situation and the perceived problems and try to work out solutions together; as one should choose to work with academic colleagues. Instead Professor Muscatelli gives the Herald an interview.

Most perplexing is the distinction between “undergraduates” and “adult learners”. What happened to lifelong learning? Why are people, irrespective of age, on university-accredited courses not regarded as part-time students of the university? Do we really want to return to a time when teenagers come to university for three or four years and never again engage with academic knowledge? Evidently not: in the University’s strategy for the remainder of the decade we find the intention to provide a “..research-informed .. experience that prepares (students) for lifelong learning.” Admirable! Shouldn’t we also be providing the same sort of research-informed opportunities for this lifelong learning?

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