NIACE welcomes Lord Mandelson's HE speech Monday, July 27, 2009 - 14:10

First Secretary Lord Mandelson

NIACE warmly welcomes the speech made by First Secretary Lord Mandelson at Birkbeck College in London on Monday 27 July 2009.

Lord Mandelson is reported as saying about adult learning:

"I also think we need to ask whether the higher education system adequately supports mature students and part timers. I think we have taken huge steps in all these areas - not least in the pathbreaking model of the Open University and here at Birkbeck, which openly positions itself as 'London's evening university'."

"But we need to be that serious about adult skills and life-long higher and further education, for a number of simple reasons."

We also need to ensure that higher education can be an integral part of a whole working life, not just its antechamber

Lord Mandelson

"First: almost half of British university students are already mature students."

"Second, most of the future British workforce of the 2020s is already in their twenties or older, and it is their skills that will determine our economic capabilities at that critical point."

"Third, the demographics of an ageing population mean that even with an influx of foreign students, the student market is going to get progressively older, and demand will reflect that."

"There is clearly a place for the conventional, campus-based, full time, away-from-home model of study leading to a final degree. But we need to keep encouraging the alternatives that are springing up: two-year honours degrees, part time modular degrees, modular programmes that don't have to lead to a full degree."

"...We also need to ensure that higher education can be an integral part of a whole working life, not just its antechamber."

 Alastair Thomson, Principal Advocacy Officer at NIACE, said:

"Lord Mandelson has given us a thoughtful and considered speech which is impressive in the acknowledgement it makes of mature students and part-time study."

"Only once did his language default to a narrower concern for ‘young people from poorer backgrounds', rather than people of all ages from poorer backgrounds."

"NIACE hopes that Lord Mandelson will recognise that the restriction on public funding for Equivalent or Lower-Level Qualifications (ELQ) has cost far in excess of its benefits."

"NIACE looks forward to contributing to a public debate about a higher education system that offers excellence, equality and accessibility to all adults."