Engaging with the Historic Environment: Continuing Education
This project examines the current state of play of archaeology within Continuing Education, and is the first time that such a detailed study has been undertaken for this sector. The initial idea for the project was the CBA’s Head of Education Don Henson, it was funded by English Heritage, and carried out by Richard Lee who was appointed to the task in late 2007.
The project grew out of the concern that the CBA had regarding the closure of some university continuing education departments. Since 2002, the universities of Newcastle, Exeter Birmingham and Leeds, amongst others, had decided not to continue with their continuing education provision. Concerns were held that these closures could potentially continue and further damage archaeological provision for the part-time student body. As is now clear these fears were well founded, and by the end of the 2009 academic year the universities of Bristol, Manchester and Reading will also be closing their continuing education provision.
The CBA has been monitoring continuing education since the mid 1990s, and to highlight the current situation the following table illustrates the current predicament quite clearly.
|Number of Courses||1327||1124||761||515|
The CBA’s prediction is that the situation presented in this table will continue throughout 2010–11.
Whilst archaeology is not the only subject to be affected by these closures it is perhaps more vulnerable than other subjects. Archaeology has a long history of association with continuing education, or extra-mural study as it used to be known. This lineage can be traced back to the 1930s when WG Hoskins began teaching Local History at the extra-mural department of the University of Leicester, and was followed by Maurice Beresford at Leeds, and Maurice Barley teaching archaeology at the University of Nottingham’s Department of Adult Education. Since then archaeology’s place in adult education has continued to grow and has become one of its most popular subjects and a guaranteed class filler. This popularity has seen the involvement of county societies and local community archaeology groups at many universities. A large body of archaeology excavation and research has been carried out in continuing education departments that would not otherwise have been possible. This research work is still being undertaken in 2009, but with the aforementioned closures we are now faced with the prospect of losing this significant contribution to our discipline. Many professional archaeologists had their start in classes and field projects at continuing education centres and in 2009 many of the accredited courses are being taken by a younger group of students, often in their mid twenties, looking to change career to archaeology.
Everything outlined by the preceding paragraph is now at risk across the UK. Indeed in some parts of the country for example the North-East and the South-West continuing education provision has already effectively ceased to exit at university level. Whilst there are now options to take Distance Learning courses with the Open University or the University of Leicester these do not include options for field work in local study and excavation projects. So the cutbacks affect a broad swathe of the archaeological community.
The Engaging the Historic Environment: Continuing Education project was conducted in three parts:
- an email survey of students, tutors and subject organisers at 20 university continuing education centres;
- a personal visit and interview with subject organisers at the same universities to discuss their answers in the survey in more detail;
- a visit to 20 county societies and community archaeology groups and their relationship with continuing education, and creating a profile of this work.
The changes that universities are making to their provision of continuing education are primarily driven by financial considerations. The initial university closures earlier this decade were a consequence of universities own internal funding policies. However in 2008–09, a time of general economic difficulty, university funding has been further hit by the government imposed cutbacks known as ELQ – Equivalent or Lower Level qualifications. This is a government directive introduced in September 2007, when Secretary of State for the Department of Universities, Innovation and Skills, John Denham, sent a letter to HEFCE (Higher Education Funding for Council for England) directing funding withdrawal for students studying for a second degree at the same level as their first or lower qualification. Parallel to this action, universities also decided to increase their adult education fees, often instigating a short two-year phased increase raising part-time fees parallel to full time fees, which had the effect of deterring new students from enrolling on courses. So this twin economic impact had the effect of further attacking existing students, and potential new students, via their pocket in a time of continuing recession.
A first draft of the consultative report on lifelong learning – Engaging with the Historic Environment: Continuing Education is available.
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