Chris Duke

Please, no More “Business as Usual”

What the Harsh New World Means for Adult and Higher Education

1. Globalism and its Crises

Is the time of unquestioned globalisation drawing to a close? Recent events are rapidly changing the world that we live in. The world that we might hope to leave in better shape for our children and grandchildren is under threat. Climate change and global warming should dwarf all else. They should command the full attention of policy-makers throughout the world, as they did the United States when New Orleans was flooded, and in Australia when the Victorian bushfires became the nation’s worst ever natural disaster. Yet the collapse of the world finance industry in its biggest ever bubble, and the consequent economic turmoil and contraction seem, now in 2009, even more immediate and more pressing. Alert policy-makers, including some economists, have seen the obvious connection between acting to check global warming and acting by investing in a ‘green future’, thereby creating jobs, renewing infrastructure, and reviving economic activity. But seeing does not always lead to doing.

Putting it together, what we now see, looks like the end of the “neo-liberal experi ment” in which an all-conquering political ideology favoured small government, open markets, free trade and competitive individualism in multiple forms and in all circumstances. The United States’ most extreme neo-liberal Administration ended its days in a breath-taking burst of State spending that all but resembles socialist nationalisation, with State subsidy to key sectors – banking, insurance, the auto industry. In the pages of The Economist and the serious press, the concern now is that protectionism will return, and economic contraction will accelerate. Com mentators have also noted that the less “penetrated” nations, where regulation has limited and delayed the full impact of globalisation, are surviving better. At the IMF Davos Forum, Harvard economist Kenneth S. Rogoff suggested just this about India, as discussed in the page 1 economic analysis of The New York Times on 14 February 2009. India is faring better in this new global era than wonder economies like Iceland and Ireland.

Maybe the times that we are moving into will come to be called post-global. Are we nearing the end of the drive to open all countries, economies, peoples, cultures and lifestyles, to monochrome consumer-driven capitalism based on open borders in all things economic?

Many governments, as well as their media, have blamed the United States for destroying their own economic balance and capacity for development, Iran and Russia prominent among them, but much of Europe and other regions as well. You do not have to agree with President Robert Mugabe that all Zimbabwe’s ills are to be blamed on (British) colonialism; yet it is still impossible to deny that the fiscal collapse and economic recession of the OECD nations – the “rich men’s club” – is impacting on pretty well every country in the world. This, with global warming, will affect the well-being and life, if not the survival of many citizens in many lands.

In terms of the blame game, it is still “business as before”. The US sub-prime mortgage crisis, and behind this the greed and crazy risk-taking of banks more generally, are blamed for global disarray. But as the crisis widens and deepens, we have begun to look wider, perhaps to blame a little less and think a little more. Lehman Brothers and Bernard Madoff have become the byword for selfish greed. The notorious labelling phenomenon of the “axis of evil” has found another focus onto which to externalise anger over our collective failure of vision and capacity to govern ourselves well. There were of course earlier examples of greed and irre sponsibility, going back in the case of the UK to Robert Maxwell and Nick Gleeson. Other advanced economies have their own galleries of villains. As I read the serious press and other commentators, I discern a gradual shift: from picking out leading exemplars of selfish greed to seeing a deeper phenomenon. If a hugely addictive debt habit is the source of the problem, is it sensible for the West to blame China and the Arab World for not consuming more, for being too strongly in credit? Evidently consumerism is still seen as the driver of economic success. Now some people are beginning to connect this with the futility of expecting growth to continue for ever, realising that this kind of business as usual cannot continue for ever. The yesterday we all loved to grow wealthy on will not return.1

However, “business as usual” is very hard to dislodge. It calls for a society-wide cultural transformation in values as well as economic assumptions. Perhaps adult education has something to say, and to do, here. Perhaps, indeed, it should be its central task and duty. Initially, in the UK, we were told to expect economic slowdown, maybe a year before growth resumed as normal, or maybe a little longer and a little slower. Then the language slipped first to recession and then to depression. Lower growth became accelerating contraction, the period to repay bale-out to the banks lengthened from years to decades. The crisis was deemed the worst since the War, then since the Great Depression, then the worst in the last hundred years. Maybe business as usual does not apply in such a cataclysmically new scenario. But is there the political and the popular will to accept and act towards a different reality?

Meanwhile, that earlier and actually more important environmental crisis appears to be brushed aside by immediate economic survival: investing in a green future has been seen as a way to address both crises together, but getting there will take time. How about more focused effort by adult educators as agents of change?

Hard as it is to think and to be different, the American presidential election and the inauguration of – by his own self-deprecating account – that skinny kid with the funny (not to mention part-Muslim) name shows that change can take place at the very heart of neo-liberalism. The story so far, prior to and following his in auguration, is also heartening. For all that realpolitik is called for to achieve real results, Obama has continued to define climate change as his biggest challenge, as well as taking action on domestic policy and in beginning to revise the United States’ tragic foreign policy and resulting negative image. The mood of the post-crisis gathering of leading policy-makers, economists and other influence-brokers at Davos also suggested that the world had changed, although no leader there was too clear as to how.

2. Globalism and Adult Education

What has all this to do with adult education and development, or with higher edu cation? The answer is everything, if we consider that our work does and should make a difference in enriching the lives of those who learn. Nor can we in the “development industry” dismiss these as the ills of just large rich countries up north. Small nations of the north like Iceland, the Baltic States and Ireland are suffering severely, but the impact on many nations of the south is likely, despite a delay, to be yet more severe. I look here at one small country of the north – but the lessons could apply to any region or small country whether of the north or of the south.

How as educators might we think differently and what ought we to do differently – or is it to be business as usual for us too? We may not have had the ethics bypass at birth that one American financier infamously boasted about. Indeed, we can with justice see ourselves as a “moral profession” nurturing human development. If however business as usual is bankrupt for the banking industry and will no longer work for whole societies and their leaders, we should also be asking ourselves what we might need to be doing differently. Let me mention a few things about which it may be time to think and behave a little differently. In the process we may rediscover rather than abandon the wellsprings of good from which education, and above all, adult education, was nurtured.

One way is to restore the imbalance, to reflect on the fractured competitive individualistic society, which allows us to give almost all our attention to individu als’ learning, outcomes and measured learning attainment – measured usually for personal competitive advantage rather than for some wider, social or civic, good. Can we somehow bring collective ecological, social and civic requirements back more centrally onto the agenda?

Certainly, writing in a UK context, I see a tendency to set adults’ learning in com petition with the education of the young. Our commitment to adults’ second chances should not tempt us into arguing for resources for older learners at the expense of investing in “pre-experience” school-based learning of a kind that will launch all young people onto a natural lifelong learning career and lifestyle.

Thirdly, since the main part of this paper is about higher rather than adult educa tion, can we as adult educators endeavour to work more productively with universi ties of all persuasions to serve their societies, especially the under-privileged and excluded who tend to be at the heart of our passion? In a number of systems, adult learners represent the majority of enrolled learners, when short-course learners are included with students following full degree programmes. We could improve our ability to work with colleagues in higher education who share similar purposes and objectives. Sometimes our two communities of discourses fail to connect. Sometimes, maybe, we feel and display apparent moral superiority. Perhaps also there is resentment at the more privileged conditions enjoyed by higher education staff and “regular” degree students. For those working in universities, the attrac tions and rewards of academic success may narrow their horizons and curtail their aspirations for adult learners. There are bigger stakes and wider vistas for them in the “world class” league tables, as well as management pressures to perform and conform. This is something that I will return to towards the end of this paper. Before that, let us look a little more at adult education in the context of the smaller, more local and distinctive, region, taking the example of Wales.

3. Can Small Be Beautiful – Regions and Small Countries?

I connect two themes, excessive individualism and the irresponsible academic ambition of many universities, through a question about the local region. The local region is the place where the most effective action is likely to occur, and where adult and higher education can most effectively combine to make a difference, whether to the environment or to the economy, and to people’s well-being.

The idea for this paper comes from a visit to Wales; but it is also quite general. It happened to be Wales because I recently gave the keynote paper there for a Welsh Government Conference on planning future higher education in Wales. Being arranged for the Welsh Assembly by the Welsh branch of NIACE, a close sister organisation to DVV, the Conference naturally adopted a strong widening access and wider participation agenda. The meeting was unusual in having, in balanced and equal measure, policy-makers and practitioners from two related but often separated communities of practice, adult education and higher educa tion. Because Wales is a small country with a strong and revived sense of national identity, most of the sixty or seventy people in the room knew, or at least had had some contact with, one another at one time or another. In principle they had the capacity to make a difference by working together.

Wales has a weaker economic performance than any of the nine English ad ministrative regions that it neighbours. Partial political devolution from London to Cardiff over the past decade has by now made a significant mark. Practices have increasingly diverged between Wales and England. Some changes are causing problems for Welsh universities in terms of finances, student fees, and student recruit ment. Naturally finances, the high cost associated with having a relatively large number of small higher education institutions, and the capacity to be competitive with a larger and still dominant neighbour, are uppermost in the minds and the forthcoming recommendations of the higher education review.

On the other hand, there have been positive changes. Most obvious is the requirement to study the all-but-defunct Welsh language throughout primary and secondary education. Welsh language clung on in its more remote strongholds, despite being pilloried and punished under English cultural imperialism until quite recent times. The effect cannot be measured, and the cost of making the study of the Welsh language compulsory throughout the school system cannot be trivial. No economist would say that it was smart to incur the costs of translation for a second official language. The effects in terms of identity, self-respect, and a felt capacity to influence one’s life and destiny, may outweigh the costs. Such changes may empower the people and the partly – devolved Government of Wales to choose and work more purposefully for their own future. For better for worse, this is not business as usual. Wales as a “region” is trying to plan its own future and choose its own direction. In this way it may be part of a “post-global” trend to manage better by going more local.

Regional devolution takes different constitutional and administrative forms in different countries. The tendency to devolve power and decision-making is not uni versal; some governments are fearful that it will result in disloyalty and the break-up of the State. It is however a common tendency globally, mainly as it is realised that “one size does not fit all” situations across diverse regions in a large country. More local planning is likely to come up with more effective solutions. Closer to the heart of the adult education movement, this tendency also makes easier the richer forms of democracy which involve more of the community and get nearer to meeting the ideal of active citizenship and participatory democracy in which a shared adult tradition is grounded all over the world.

The UK has a heavily centralised system; all roads seem to lead to London, and all power to emanate from there. In Wales, Cardiff is now an alternative, although secondary political centre and source of government support for adult education. An instinct for equity seems to inform Welsh Assembly approaches, to judge by the emphasis in the 2008-09 higher education review on widening access to higher education, and thereby trying to address socio-economic inequalities which are very marked in some regions. Prominent among these are the Valleys which have lost their mining industry and see low attainment and unemployment passing down through the generations.

As in England, the widening access movement has attracted significant Funding Council support, but there has been a UK-wide shift towards tackling low socio economic and other excluded group access to higher education through the school system, right back into early years. At a deep level “real” education is still seen as for the young, not as lifelong. This presents the problem for adult educators that special-purpose funds (known as Action on Access and AimHigher) move away from “second chance” adult education to favour more school preparation and school-to-HE linkage programmes.

Circumstances and terminology vary around the world (non-formal and out-of school are terms less used in the UK than in the South). But latent competition for scarce public funds presents a similar choice: of policy for governments, and of lob bying for support by adult educators. There is a further temptation into which adult education has fallen: of masking equity objectives which are unfashionable under neo-liberalism, and dressing up arguments for adult learning in the language of the day – mostly about skills and employability. There are some moral dilemmas here for adult education, and a price to pay if the “movement” seems to have deserted traditional values at a time when these values may come back into focus, as a key way out of ecological, social and economic crisis. In Wales and elsewhere, harsh new times are also the time for a long hard think about what business we are now in, and how we now best go about it.

4. Globalism and Higher Education

For higher education the challenge is clearer; and because it is such a huge business now, in the era of mass (or even as some prefer universal) higher education, there is more momentum both for and against more change. More is invested in keeping the system going much as it is.

The connection with regionalism which I referred to above is easily demonstrated by way of the contemporary emphasis on a “third mission” for higher education. This used to be called extension. Among the many changes of language, outreach and service, to business, industry or the community, have become familiar. In prac tice extension and service are most naturally and effectively delivered within the region where the institution is located, rather than globally and in some abstract sense of service to humankind. In fact two better words are now being adopted and widely used to refer to this dimension or 3rd mission of the university: partner ship, and engagement. The usual understanding is that in addition to the normal and familiar “core business” of teaching and research one must add a third: service or engagement. I want to argue that the twin crises con fronting a global (or emerging post-globalised) world require universities to move beyond an added-on “third leg” or “third stream” of work, and to make engagement an informing pur pose guiding and partly shap ing what they teach and what they study through research.

Grassroots approaches

As the terms of reference of the Welsh inquiry show, this is not where higher education inquiries tend to start. That one started with immediate and pressing financial matters, al though in a context of a) wid ening access and b) subjects of national priority importance. The second stage asked about the mission, purpose and the role of higher education, and the future needs of society and the economy, as well as of learners. The first stage could not but be within a “business as usual” paradigm. Looking ahead however, all of us need to think again about the university in an altered world.

The very term university suggests universality, but this is not the same as what we think of as globalism. Within a universality of knowledge there is of course, as with other life forms, great diversity of species. Universities and higher education systems around the world have different origins, traditions and emphases. It is not only in the West that the university goes back nearly a thousand years; other regions can claim older antecedents. However, the Anglo-Saxon model has tended to dominate not just the English-speaking world, even the world of the colonised South. In the last century and down to today it has spilled over, thanks to the power of the English language and the American economy, to become the worldwide model.

This is true in universities’ institutional forms as well as in policy-making and man agement assumptions and main functions. Newer changes include most obviously the shift from elite, that is small-intake, socially and meritocratically selective, to mass higher education. Many societies expect the overwhelming majority of those now growing up to experience some form of tertiary education. In the modern era of full-fledged globalisation, fashion and policy are highly “infectious”. They spread rapidly from one country and system to another, easily becoming taken-for-granted. Thus “business as usual” comes to mean moving in a predetermined direction towards entrepreneurial universities managed on modern business lines, and contributing to the national economic effort by means of what, in the countries I know, best is called “the skills agenda”. Wales is typical of such assumed purposes, although moderated by a quite keen spirit of equity.

The Bologna accord has extended its reforming influence well beyond Europe, where it is one driver (and hand-maiden to neo-liberalism) of both modernising and globalising. A more recent and more ruthless driver is the world league ta bles which rank universities across the whole world to a common scale. It is not surprising that wealthy English-language USA overwhelmingly dominates these lists. It is also fitting, given this century’s progressive shift in world power, that the most authoritative, certainly most widely cited, of these lists is called the Shanghai ranking. Position in a global league table now blinds many governments as well as institutional heads, to roles, qualities and merits not well reflected in a system which favours research published in (mainly North American, essentially English language) academic journals. Globalism with its rampant competitiveness has entered the soul of universities. It is time to ask whether the world league table is not now as bankrupt as the world banking system.

Competitive individualism afflicts ambitious universities, like ambitious nations. There is one winner, which makes for many losers. At micro level the same can be said of neo-liberal societies, and about the assumptions underpinning a higher education skewed to advancing individuals’ employability by similarly fragmenting win-lose means. Personal interest and ambition, whether of parents, employers, or students, have become the drivers. This has commodified higher education around narrow outcomes, where learners are consumers of knowledge for their own use. Similarly, globally competitive “world class” league tables have made the academic research industry and its labour a competed for commodity where personal reward may result in global “transfers” of stars and their teams between universities. The vision of the Nobel prize-winner remains the “gold standard” for excellence in contributing to human well-being. The contrast with a sports-star-like academic career transfer industry is an uncomfortable one. All this is a long way away from finding ways to manage ourselves better in the face of twin ecological and socio-economic crises.

This brings me back to the idea of a “third mission” for higher education: service alongside teaching and research. The language has evolved, from community serv ice to outreach – reaching out to the community, or often to industry and business. Partnership has also grown up as a better term that also gives different practical meaning to the idea. Usually again, the partnership most commonly sought is with business and industry, sometimes also with government, only occasionally in a richer sense with “the community”.

Another much stronger term has recently been widely adopted. This is engage ment. It means a different kind of relationship, not the “noblesse oblige” of a university deigning to bring a little light and benefit to others outside its own “community” of scholars. Instead it conveys the idea of reciprocity of relationship. Here both parties give and receive, in ways that inform and may literally enrich both the university and its community partners. Even at the academic heartland of the modern competitive university, this has resonance when linked to more recent paradigms of research – the shared and joint conceiving, creating, owning and using of research that is put into a public arena, in what is often now called the knowledge economy and society. (The term Mode 2 knowledge production refers to this kind of research.)

At its richest, an “engaged” university is involved a) in the “human resource” development, of its society, via teaching, b) in the creation and application of new knowledge, via research, and c) in the leadership and governance of society as one of the best endowed and in principle “disinterested” and detached “estates of the realm”. Universities are the privileged repositories and curators of an inor- dinate storehouse of living wealth. It can be argued that they owe it to society to share and use this transparently and collaboratively in the public interest – or risk forfeiting the privilege.

In practice, it is also arguable that this means engaging with the society, its com munities and diverse stakeholders, as partners and a resource at local-regional levels “where the action is”. This is where the need for much of the knowledge that should inform the research agenda is felt and can be spelt out. This is where the majority of “human resource” needs are expressed, and can be defined in curricu lum terms – the teaching agenda. Thought of in this way, it becomes evident that the “third mission” of the university – engagement for community service – should become the central and first mission. It should inform and infuse all of the teaching and research programmes of the university, though not dictate them. Making this real means embedding it in time and place; it will in some respects always be partly localised. At the same time the rich “diversity of species” that characterise universities across the world demands respect and sustenance for their unique mystiques, ambiances, histories and scholarship. They should always be special places for many young and older people to learn, grow and be enriched. They can be this, and still be a part of the “real” world, meanwhile in some measure also set apart from it.

None of this is easy to bring about. It is certainly easier to prefer business as usual in the modern globally favoured competitive sense. Making this change means living with a host of contradictory dualisms, of being simultaneously white and black, special and everyday. Higher education both conserves and creates knowledge and desirably wisdom. It is charged with contesting and questioning the values, assumptions and behaviours of current society. At the same time it is a part of it. It will properly reflect its fashions, and doubtless its shortcomings and woes. There is always a paradox for the teacher: both innovator and conserver; inducting new generations into a changing world as well as understanding, valuing and being a part of its continuities. Acting in ways that can be globally recognised, while contributing as part of a region, is just one more challenge for the leaders and foot-soldiers of higher education.

Perhaps it is in some ways easier to do this as the now normal mass higher educa tion system means that much change has already happened in all areas of teaching, and this kind of fast evolution must inevitably continue. Academic conservatism will probably always be a chronic obstacle. It is also one to be respected because at its best the values that it is grounded in are priceless. Where however academic freedom and autonomy are masquerading simply to protect institutional and profes sional self-interest, and to resist being properly a part of a struggling society in need of all its resources even to survive, they should be unmasked and set aside. In the end, universities ex ist, and deserve to exist, in both their teaching and their research identities, to the extent that they are of benefit to the society that supports them.

Combatting poverty

In the discussion so far I have swung between referring to the individual university and to high er education (HE), or the higher education system. Let us now ac knowledge two things. First, the huge diversity between universi ties: each is in some sense unique. Secondly, the need to think of higher education’s collective and complementary contribution to the public good. In fact most govern ments do already think in terms of an HE system, although not always very imaginatively. And in most countries higher education has increasingly spilled over from

the more traditional (usually public) university into a host of other institutional forms, such as for-profit and not-for-profit private institutions, open and distance institutions, specialised professional “mono”-universities, and mixed level institutions offering higher education, such as community technical and further education colleges.

These realities bring us squarely back to higher education as a system, and particularly to the university in its society and region. Universities (and other HE institutions) are banded and branded in most countries: in principle according to function and priority of mission, often on a basis of their historical origins, age and prestige. In practice this hierarchical and even classist system interacts vigorously and unhealthily with the world-class ‘beauty contest’ to the detriment of whole less privileged countries and regions.

To be called regional is commonly felt to be a slur on a university. It signals poor standing, low recognition, and limited appeal. No matter how valuable its work, and how greatly valued in the region, the more it is connected to a region, to a locality, to grassroots realities, the lower its esteem. For all that this is self-defeating for the great majority of universities, the quest to be “world class” seems overwhelm ing. Sometimes valuable and productive suites of courses, whole departments, and research groups may be discontinued in order to better the university’s overall position to be well-ranked. No matter that in this contest there is only room in the lists for twenty in the top twenty, and a hundred in the top hundred: hundreds and thousands compete to win an unwinnable place.

Meanwhile national and sub-national needs are swept aside. Governments, even in non-English language middle income countries, feel shamed to have none or very few “top hundred” institutions. The temptation seems irresistible to reshape the national higher education endeavour so as to have just one or a very few “world class” universities at almost any price. This will further impoverish HE systems that are already unavoidably poorly resourced, even in recent “good times”, as expand ing demand and student intake outstrip growth of infrastructure and resources. The threat to “quality” in teaching/learning is overlooked in the quest for “quality” in research. Research is measured by quite strict international academic standards, with certainly no eye to relevance and utility. Thus even good and valued (dare one say “relevant”) teaching can be sacrificed in order to earn national prestige. One or two star universities able to attract highly qualified foreign students and faculty are a poor substitute for a higher education system designed to meet the spread and balance of needs of a stressed society: national prestige a poor consolation.

Given the reality of competitive instincts, competitive tables, and the privileging of a certain kind of research, what is the solution? Or does one shrug one’s shoulders and hope the big crises will go away, or be resolved by some other player? Here is another not insoluble tension or paradox for the modern university.

In fact the solution lies with the wider “HE policy community”, and with national and regional administrations working in accord. Despite the tendency to drive uni versities onto a “diversified portfolio” mixed-income self-financing basis, they are already and are likely always to remain at least “semi-nationalised” and publicly owned – at least steered and confined by the State, as are most great estates of the realm.

The possible demise of high neo-liberalism, reverting to a more respected and active role for the State (led of all people by George Bush in his final presidential months) may facilitate a trend towards planning university systems more transpar ently. This is what the Wales HE review needs to do as its 2nd, longer term task. If one starts by asking what a country needs of its higher education, and decomposing this down to what this means for its regions, the basis for negotiating and agreeing the respective roles of different HE institutions and system sectors becomes clearer.

This applies whether we are talking about strong authorities like states in a federal system, Germany and the United States, or planning regions enjoying some measure of devolution in more centralised systems, as in France and the UK. It means the collectivity of HE providers, university and other, being charged with

– and accepting – responsibility between them for discharging the full range of requirements for the balanced, sustainable and healthy development of the region and its inhabitants. It is not a recipe for mediocrity. Nor does it prevent regions from housing and being blessed with world class universities of great prestige and wealth.

What it does mean is that these institutions must transparently negotiate and earn their place with the community of which they are part. This includes the other HE institutions with which they cohabit. To do this they may need to agree to accept students from working class and other more excluded communities, direct or by progression, with full recognition at first and higher degree levels. They may need to enter into joint programmes for equity and other development purposes with their HE neighbours in research training, supervision and projects, in ways that enrich neighbouring institutions rather than merely cherry-picking talent to win honours by their own virtuoso performance. At present, talent drains away to the most prestigious and wealthy universities through the powers of prestige and the purse, impoverishing other HE institutions, students, regions, and communities. The more prestigious will need to contribute some of their energies and leadership skills, as well as the wisdom and expertise residing around the faculties and schools, to help the region plan and manage better, on the road to collective wiser governance.

This “new university”, to take a term in low esteem and give it a new meaning, thus contributes to a regional as well as a national and global knowledge-and-understanding system for a more sustainable society. Part of doing this involves questioning and contesting what is good in and for that society, and how to achieve it. Is this seen as an affront to academic autonomy? If so, so be it. Sharing in the leadership of society, and sharing responsibility with accountably for its benefits, is the privilege and price of a modern university’s existence. It is engagement in the full sense of undertaking highly valued teaching and knowledge-making, and in sharing in the task of leading us out of the global mess that we are all in.

What End is in Sight?

In Melbourne, as the enormity of the 2009 bushfires was realised – Australia’s big gest ever natural disaster – there was talk among its universities of pooling resources to address the situation together: both the immediate medical, human, social, civic and economic needs of “getting back to normal” but also the longer-term predica ment of global warming of which it was a dramatic manifestation. Only a rash person would bet on this happening: “business as usual” is more likely once the dust of the fires has settled. If not now, perhaps next time? When, in our world of education to better the human condition and in each of our different countries and circumstances, will the pressure become irresistible to behave differently, and more urgently and directly to confront the crises of globalisation that have overtaken humankind? Tomorrow may not be soon enough.


Since I have partly located this essay in the context of the request of the Welsh Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills ‘that a Task and Finish Group be established to conduct a review of higher education in Wales’ in two stages, I am adding a note commis sioning that inquiry.

The first stage of the review, to conclude by the end of September 2008, will consider student finance arrangements in Wales: the extent to which student finance is targeted to enhance wid ening access opportunities and encourage take up of priority subjects; how best to tackle gradu ate debt in anticipation of the 2009 fee cap review in England; and how this is best achieved through national statutory student finance and locally delivered bursaries, scholarships etc. The second component will focus on reviewing the mission, purpose and role for higher edu cation in Wales taking account of the vision set in Reaching Higher and Skills that Work for Wales; ongoing work in England and Scotland and analysis of both current and predicted future economic, social and learner need. This component should be completed by the end of February 2009.


1 The same theme recurs in a Le Figaro Economie article “Les deux facons d’en finir avec la crise”. Jean-Pierre Robin regrets the emphasis placed on “relance – ‘l’expression designe un retour a l’etat anterieur … il s’agit au contraire de se propulser dans l’avenir”, and later, “parmi les rare certitudes du moment, ne retourner pas au status ante…” The Chief Executive of the Welsh Funding Council concluded his presentation at the Conference referred to in this paper by asserting that “there will be no more business as usual”.

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