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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Volume 2, Issue 1.
Welcome to our second year. The journal has developed into a site of high-quality discussion papers, practice-based analysis with a UK and widening international base. More importantly, it has retained its relevance to the sector and those who work within it. These attributes are clearly evident in the papers that launch our second year. This is achieved by the authors but also, and in acknowledgement of; the reviewers, administrators and the team at the publishers. It is also appropriate to mention UVAC and its conferences (with the 2011 conference being no exception) as helping to maintain the high quality of debate, which features in this journal. The last 12 months have also seen UVAC develop its interests in higher apprenticeship especially in progression from work-based learning programmes at craft level and the higher education (HE) role in supporting the development and accreditation of technician level skills.
The changes in HE in its selective format and how the institutions respond to the changes in fees have potentially changed the face of HE forever. There is a clear need and urgency for institutions to be competitive, to be price sensitive and to work on the form and content of their delivery at a time when the sector has never been so directed which threatens its independence of academic freedom. We all are experiencing these changes as the sector realigns itself to customer and income generation. However, these changes need not result in concerns over standards or for the relevance of a HE, even though the cost to students may be considerably more expensive than before.
The reshaping of HE in terms of competitive capital and labour management do bring some of the same principles from business directly into the mission of HE providers. The use of prices and student achievement to moderate university intake further confirms the hybrid and mistrusting approach. Government seems to have of non-elite university HE institutions. Moreover it points clearly to an antiquated division between exam result excellence, privilege and the workplace. Behind the apparent placement of students at the centre of the system of “what-you-pay-for-is-what-you-get” HE is a lack of any apparent understanding of how an edified populace can serve a country already riddled with class and wealth divisions. These new UK Government changes, mirrored elsewhere in the world, offer ever increasing challenges to those involved in developing people's well-being. Our attempts to increase social capital both from inside and outside institutions of HE and from within the workplace require more effort to make real contributions when our ideologically-blinded policy makers interfere with things they evidently don’t understand. These issues illustrate just how complex the question of “employability” is, what might be done to facilitate individuals’ social and financial well-being through a collaboration between HE and commerce and the need to identify what kind of work we are seeking to support.
The good work of developing skills through employers is the theme of Tracy White's opening paper. In this insightful contribution she addresses Employer Response Provision to the related roles of HE institutions and the workplace and the challenges both must meet. In a similar tone, Alison and Emma's paper investigates the structure change need for HE institutions to be able to respond to strategic imperatives either imposed upon them or self-generated. These set the scene well for Kevin and Ann's case study discussion of the learning organisation and how demand-led work-based learning can contribute to the realisation of the learning organisation.
Alison Iredale's engagement with Dewey's notions of experience and experiential learning is an important contribution to our better understanding of how this great pragmatist and educational thinker can make a significant contribution to our present thinking. Her findings shed light on how the skilful development of praxis can enhance professional practice.
Georgina and Marylin's paper on the effectiveness of strategies to enhance employability skills works well when read in association with Junaidah's excellent discussion of how success within the HE institution relates to success in the workplace The final paper again highlights the international dimension of the journal. Andreas, Nicos and Ioannis's contribution from Cyprus illustrates how research work undertaken originally for a professional doctorate can lead to implications in the workplace, this time the university.
In these difficult economic times the authors in this issue offer hope of a future integrity for HE (not necessarily universities) to enhance our society through employment and innovation. For adding to the literature on HE, skills and work-based learning, their work is worthy of serious consideration.