AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractIn recent years, policy drivers have given a strategic push towards encouraging ‘employer-led’ work based learning in Higher Education. For example, Leitch ( 2006?) and other key policy makers advocate institutional change and reform in HE to respond to market needs; HEFCE encourages HEI’s “Towards a strategy for work based learning”; the QAA has reflected most recently on ‘employer-responsive provision’. This paper sets out to explore the impact of these strategic objectives and some issues which emerge from the rapprochement of stakeholders and providers. It is based on experience in an institution where challenges and tensions are being met and overcome. The case example is part of a Higher Level Skills Pathway (HLSP) Project whose lead partner is the North West Universities Association (NWUA) in North West England. Learning Pathway provision for Housing Practitioners (via a Professional Certificate in Leadership) has been developed in conjunction with employers using the WBIS (Work based and Integrative Studies) framework at the University of Chester. This flexible modular framework puts knowledge and experiential learning gained in the work context at the core of learning activity. This paper uses the example to characterise the power relationships and tensions. Reflecting on the case study, it seems that by attending to such policy drivers, much compromise is required from both parties in terms of curriculum design and the relationships being built between Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s) and employers. The term ‘employer-led’ denotes an uneven power relationship and this may in the long run serve to undermine the hallmark of HE provision – quality and standards. In conclusion we suggest that the whole relationship needs to be predicated on co-produced provision in order to build sustainable relationships between employers and HEI’s. The term ‘co-production’ equalises the power relationship, encouraging the goal of dynamic interaction, mutual respect and benefits based on the expertise and knowledge of each party.
CitationUnpublished conference presentation given at the Work Based Learning Futures at University of Middlesex, April 2010.
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