Learning journeys in the West Midlands

Hughes, Jonathan (2006). Learning journeys in the West Midlands. In: BERA, 6-9 Sep 2006, Warwick, UK.


This research is the result of a partnership between three educational providers in the West Midlands of England. This region covers approximately 13,000 square kilometres, which span both rural and highly urbanised areas, and has a population of over 5.3 million. Although manufacturing remains a key part of the economy there are areas where there are significant levels of rural deprivation.

These three educational providers are:
The Open University
Staffordshire University
The West Midlands Region of the Workers’ Educational Association.

All three providers promote access to further and higher education for disadvantaged groups.

The research aims to develop a better understanding of the way in which an individual’s past experience, education and life chances impact on their relationship with further learning. A key element in this exploration is context. This is discussed in relation to six case studies that look at students’ life histories.

The case studies are divided between work-related learning and locally based learning. In both types of setting the research focuses on the experience of learners as it considers the approaches taken by the three partner organisations to promote access to education.

The work related research focuses on the experiences of students whose learning journeys are based on having a shared employer or a common occupation focus. They may also be using learning to find out about an occupational area or to find out about courses that hold out the prospect of qualifying in a profession. The local learning research focuses on students on a range of courses aiming to improve access to higher education.

The key findings from the research highlight the importance of prior learning, motivation and support whilst on a course. Implications for progression are also apparent. The research also has important implications for policy and for practice.

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