Friday, 25 June 2010

What is University for? Part One: Time to rethink?

Twenty five years ago University was for an elite which only about 7% of the experienced; now it is much more accessible with between 20% and 30% "participating in Higher Education" depending on how you define the term.

The decade 1999 to 2009 saw a 44% rise in the number of applicants to UK Universities that were accepted onto a course [Source: UCAS statistics: 1999 - 334,594; 2009 - 481,854]. This expansion of Higher Education has led to a number of changes in the student demographic: 11% of University applicants accepted onto undergraduate courses are now over the age of 25. More students are living at home. Course are modular, flexible and transportable: with students studying for part of their course in one institution and then moving to another to complete their course.

I know of one young graduate of ICT Networks and Web Design who did the first two years of his degree at evening classes at the local FE college before going away to the University of the West of England to do his final year. This trend of mix'n'match degrees is set to expand as young people weigh up the costs of going away to university.

This model throws an interesting light on the question What is University for?

On the one hand, University is about receiving an education to a degree level. As such it has been the entrance qualifications to the professions. On the other, it is an opportunity to have a life experience of moving away from home to live in a community with other young people. It is a formative experience - a "life-building" experience.

The young ICT graduate took a pragmatic and more affordable step of distilling these two aspects. It may be that, in the present economic climate, the time has come to consider the three-year life-experience away from home a luxury for which students should be expected to pay. Here is a model that will enable a greater participation in Higher Education without the Government and students alike running up ever more debt.

No comments:

Post a Comment