Advance: challenging the structure of higher education to meet the needs of adult work-based learners

Marr, Liz; Welsh, Cath and Lomas, Mike (2011). Advance: challenging the structure of higher education to meet the needs of adult work-based learners. Work Based Learning eJournal, 1(2) pp. 138–159.



In late 2009, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills report, Higher Ambitions, laid out challenges to the UK higher education sector to deliver flexible learning opportunities. These objectives are mirrored in Scotland through New Horizons and in Wales through For Our Future and build on a range of policy and research agendas relating to economic growth, perceived skills gaps and widening participation. Responses have been mixed, with some institutions embracing civic engagement opportunities. The real challenge for the higher education sector, however, lies in the extent to which existing systems, processes and infrastructures, predicated on a minority participation model of provision, are fit for this new purpose.
This paper draws on evidence from a Lifelong Learning Network Credit Accumulation and Transfer scheme, Advance. The scheme facilitates work based and lifelong learning by providing easier access to modules carrying credit towards a range of higher education qualifications within the FHEQ. Learning programmes are based on an ‘emergence’ model where the learner or employer is able to continually build and re-shape the learning journey to respond to their personal or specific business needs.
Evaluation of the pilot study suggests that to provide such flexibility, universities need to re-think awards and programmes, challenge notions of academic coherence and provide innovative interpretation of the QAA codes of practice for partnership working.

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