The OU and National Extension College (NEC) are launching a joint campaign to improve the life chances of those from low income groups or without previous qualifications through distance and lifelong learning.
In response to a 50% decline in the number of students aged over 21 entering into Higher Education in the last ten years*, the OU and NEC have committed to working together to identify what holds adult learners back and how best to remove those barriers.
A shared vision
Sharing the vision of their joint founder, Michael Young, who wanted to extend educational opportunities to people who could not “turn up regularly for ordinary classes”, both organisations have agreed a memorandum of understanding to campaign jointly to reverse the decline.
The NEC was established 50 years ago as a forerunner to the OU. It specialises in school years qualifications, such as GCSEs and A-levels, and has a long history of encouraging its students to continue their educational journey with higher education, including through the OU. NEC and OU students can be people with caring responsibilities, full-time employees, mothers, fathers, retired people, and those with a disability – people from all backgrounds, ages and cultures who need the flexibility distance learning offers.
“Making a real difference to thousands of people”
Julie Gowen, Head of Projects and Communications in the Learning and Teaching Institute at the OU, said:
We believe that by sharing our expertise with the NEC we can help make a real difference to thousands of people who want to learn but, for whatever reason, did not succeed academically during their school years.
“Higher education has always been a key factor in improving lives; but as we enter a new machine age, where old jobs will be swept away by the advance of automation, learning new skills throughout a career will be more important than ever.”
Create a clear pathway for excluded learners
Dr Ros Morpeth, Chief Executive of the NEC, said:
“Increasingly, second-chance learning doesn’t just make a different to individual lives and families. It makes a difference at national level too.
The barriers to second chance learning created by recent reforms in the Further and Higher Education sectors make it more important than ever for the OU and NEC, with their shared ethos, to create clear pathways for excluded learners from GCSE to postgraduate level.
*Figures published in 2016 by the Office for Fair Access (Offa) for the period between 2006 and 2016.