Parry, G., Osborne, M. and Scott, P. (2023) Introduction. In: Parry, G., Osborne, M. and Scott, P. (eds.) Access, Lifelong Learning and Education for All. Series: Palgrave studies in adult education and lifelong learning. Palgrave Macmillan: Cham, pp. 1-19. ISBN 9783031123412 (doi: 10.1007/978-3-031-12342-9_1)

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This book is concerned with access, lifelong learning and education for all. Three different but intersecting and overlapping domains. The first is fair(er) access to post-secondary education, in particular, higher education and its elite university segment. This is key to securing greater equity in education because participation in education beyond compulsory schooling is highly stratified in terms of social class, although now less so in terms of gender (at any rate in developed countries). Fair access to initial higher education is also crucial because, for better or worse, most post-secondary education systems are heavily front-loaded in terms of resources, mass participation and public and political attention. Their predominant focus is on young adults, which makes it difficult to catch up later. In addition, because participation in post-secondary education, especially at the elite university level, is most influential in shaping the structure of (well-paid and socially respected) professional work and in (re)producing class structures, more equitable access presents a key challenge for both socio-economic modernisation and educational reform and progressive politics. The second domain is lifelong learning—in effect, the drive to spread educational opportunities more equitably across the life cycle. To some extent, this has begun to be addressed by the advance of mass higher education systems. Despite front-loading, there has been a slow but steady chronological shift in the balance of post-secondary education. Pressure for more flexible forms of access and delivery has led to more open course structures—for example, modular and part-time courses—which can be a more congenial learning form for the no-longer young adult. Mass participation at undergraduate level has also stimulated large-scale expansion of postgraduate courses. This postgraduate expansion has tilted away from advanced academic courses, which were once its core, to more applied programmes, whether in the later stages of professional accreditation or continuing professional development. This has chimed well with the need to respond to the acceleration of economic and technological change, the advance of the so-called ‘knowledge society’. The idea of lifelong learning has also chimed with the greying of many western societies (the developing world is different), both demographically and socio-culturally. The third domain is education for all. Even in its most expanded form, higher education is not—yet—for everyone. In many developed countries, participation rates have ground to a halt between 50 and 60 per cent, although there are some outliers, very high participation systems with rates exceeding 70 per cent. Inside these systems access to elite universities in particular remains tightly rationed, focused on a minority of academically well-qualified young people (who align uncomfortably closely with the most socially advantaged). Lifelong learning too has its own exclusionary features. It tends to be most available to those with the highest level of initial education, to those with the high-grade professional skills seen as most deserving of upgrading and development and to those with the most social capital (and money and leisure). Too often the Matthew principle has applied—‘to those who have shall be given’. Also, lifelong learning is defined in temporal terms, spreading educational opportunities over the life course. Education for all, in contrast, is defined in spatial terms, aspiring to offer universal access across class, gender, culture and ethnicity as well as age.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Osborne, Professor Michael
Authors: Parry, G., Osborne, M., and Scott, P.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Education > People, Place & Social Change
Publisher:Palgrave Macmillan

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