Join the Revolution in Professional Education

Dr Eric ParrThe East Lancashire Institute of Higher Education at Blackburn College (ELIHE) specialises in providing tailored Higher Education solutions. It offers qualifications at levels ranging from Higher National to Masters in a range of subjects including engineering, computing, construction, business and public sector studies. It can also develop programmes rapidly to meet specific sector or industry needs.

The institute is also market leader in delivering qualifications by a combination of accreditation of existing employer courses, on-site delivery, distance learning and/or short intensive courses. It has a long track record of delivering such What we Do
The usual approach to programme design is for academics to develop a programme that matches a perceived need. While they may consult a handful of employers, they tend to pass over their needs and expect them to fit in with traditional academic timetables and delivery methods.

However, at ELIHE, we don’t think this is the answer as courses tend to be focused on intellectual knowledge alone. As a result, some very good programmes are devised but few of them produce really good practitioners and even fewer sustain serious employer satisfaction.

The regional HR Director of Capita approached ELIHE when he needed to develop a course aimed at integrating management training into the company, and embed a “culture” of learning throughout the workforce, while working with a wide variety of both staff grades and skills gaps.

The team at ELIHE worked with staff to identify first the appropriate staff grades and then to match those with the current courses run through Capita. The units of these courses were then assessed and matched with existing courses offered at ELIHE. Where courses were not relevant, they were amended and written to suit the courses Capita wanted for their staff.

When delivering the courses to staff, it was decided that a weekly commitment was not feasible, and so a plan was devised to provide delivery sessions for half a day, every 4 weeks, on a rolling programme that staff could enrol on at any time.

The bespoke courses run at Capita are now accredited by Lancaster University and Edexcel and are recognised by the Chartered Management Institute.

Graeme Meek Eng Tech MIET - Senior Engineer, International Operations, Cable & Wireless

When I joined Cable & Wireless (C & W) I was already studying towards my HND in Telecommunications and Certificate in Management Studies. This involved a mixture of studying at ELIHE, receiving accreditation for prior learning and some distance learning.

During my course of study I found that ELIHE tutors and staff were extremely helpful in guiding me down the best path towards my goals. A general course of study was set out at the start of the tuition but this was adapted as and when necessary. For example, I was able to achieve an accreditation for prior learning for a module after being sent on a course through C & W. This module was not on my plan but as the course content would meet the objectives my tutor changed my plan to suit.

After completing the modules I required for the HND I was able to continue with further studies and obtained a recognised qualification for the job I was currently doing.

The flexibility of adapting the course and modules to suit the needs of both the company and the individual as and when necessary and, to have the methods of study including intensive course, distance learning, APL, APEL and College access is second to none. Because of the College and staff guidance I now hold a HND, a Level 5 Management qualification, I am a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and I am professionally registered with the Engineering Council UK. Before attending ELIHE and meeting the staff I had none of these qualifications and did not know about the Institutions and the ECUK.

Higher Education is Changing

The images of university education we recall are about to undergo a dramatic change.  Think of higher education and a flood of memories of experiences enter our minds, with dreaded exams at the year’s end and sometimes even interim ones at Christmas, talk of term-time, semesters and six-week summer vacations for the lucky lecturers.  There was an impenetrable fog of formal roles like vice chancellor, principal, head, dean, deputy head, head of faculty, subject head.  There were assignments and essays on subjects that meant very little to us at the time.

Even today higher education institutions generally have a steady influx of student progressing from one level of education to the next, and have for years regurgitated the same old syllabus year after year.  Granted, modifications are made to bring subjects more up to date and new courses do come along, but unfortunately they generally result from teaching staff having a particular interest rather than any identified need.  In the twenty first century, courses should be developed to meet employer demands, not merely from whimsical academic trends prevailing at that moment in time.  Maybe then students would learn skills relevant to their workplace and employers would see the potential impact of helping their staff to gain higher qualifications and be more inclined to get involved in lifelong learning.

The old attitude was ‘we are the academics,  we know best, we know what the students need, we know how to teach them, we have been doing it this way for decades and it works fine, why change?”  This will not do any more.  As a nation we have ended up with a multitude of graduates with great liberal educations but few work-appropriate skills.  

The time has come for higher educational institutions and employers to get together so that all parties can have an input into academic syllabi and so produce graduates that are truly fit for purpose.  

In order to facilitate lifelong learning and make the educational experience fit the work place, educational institutions are going to have to be more flexible and allow working students to gain qualifications by means other than giving up their evening for what seems like an eternity.  By allowing accreditation of learning that takes place at work, providing distance and/or e-learning, and timetabling taught courses flexibly so that they can fit in with work demands, course delivery can be made to fit today’s busy world without eating into excessively into work or leisure time.

Some private trainers have started to take this approach with lower level courses, but to date there has been little response from the quality higher education sector. As demographic change cuts the upcoming teenage population, fewer students will progress to higher education straight from schools and colleges and the employed workforce is bound to become the new target student population.  One thing is sure, adults have to give up their time and money to achieve qualifications while working and if the goods are not up to scratch they will complain.

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