Well Universities UK, an organisation that describes itself as “the essential voice of UK universities”, has gone to a lot of trouble to create a serious report on this very subject. It talks about enhancing employment prospects for the over 50s. It mentions such laudable aims as improving social inclusion and the health of the over 50s. The BBC’s coverage of this report even talks about courses in environmental citizenship.
Frankly, I am deeply suspicious of the whole idea of higher education courses tailored for the over 50s age group. The over 50s represent a growing subsection of the unemployed. Due to their age it is harder to find a new job. Encouraging them to attend higher education courses, especially in such subjects as starting your own business, might be seen as an underhand way of reducing the unemployment figures. It might also raise false hopes concerning their hunt for employment.
The Universities UK report mentions the issue of social inclusion. As a mature student, 42 years old, I am painfully aware that I am not always a welcome addition to the student body. What kind of welcome could an invasion of the over 50s expect to receive at any university in the UK? Would the majority of the student body want a sudden influx of the over 50s?
But there is another issue. Who is going to pay for this extension of the educational system? The economy is still in a very bad way. Universities are facing swingeing cuts to funding. Student finances are under pressure. There is no slack in the budget to pay for this extension of the educational franchise. Is it possible that funds will be transferred from one group of learners to another?
Nobody can deny that education is of great benefit to us all. Not just as a method to acquire commercially valuable skills but also as a way to expand our intellectual horizons. Yet I fear this proposed redistribution of the educational wealth might be a step too far in these recessionary times.Tweet