Contents Page | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 (appendices)
This chapter provides a review of the literature that has helped shape the theoretical position developed during this research project. It should be noted however,that the arguments advanced here are not based on a well-developed prior stock of research in this area, since there is a lack of published work reporting longitudinal studies of m/s reading at first degree level in H/ed.(1) However there was a great deal of material about different aspects of educational policy and processes which were relevant and which have some bearing on my own data as will be seen in later chapters.
Thus, although a literature search did not reveal a similar project _ i.e.a longitudinal,three year study of an undergraduate cohort _ a number of issues raised in the literature are of relevance. They are:
1. Adult/continuing education. 2. Motivation. 3. Admission procedures. 4. Class and sex differences. 5. The "Career" of M/s. 6. Specific aspects of being a m/s.
There is an on-going debate in educational circles about the aims of Ad/ed. Should it be seen as a life-long activity made more necessary by the need to keep abreast of ever faster technological changes and to further a career? Or should it be regarded as an activity that develops the full potential of an individual? This dichotomy can still be clearly seen in courses provided for adults in some community education centres. During the day there are keep-fit classes, and arts and crafts and domestic accomplishments are taught. In the evening more academic and vocational subjects are tackled, e.g. languages, business studies and courses for GCE and "A" level examinations. But this dichotomous approach towards educational provision need not necessarily prevail, since both have valuable roles to play in Ad./ed.: they are not mutually exclusive. Many educationalists are devoted to the classical ideal of developing an individual's potential in as many ways as possible.
The debate over the character and purpose of adult education is well illustrated by the report Adult Education: a Plan for Development, which Sir Lionel Russell prepared for the Department of Education and Science in 1973. Although few of his suggestions were actually put into practice, this report has had a seminal effect on the thinking about education for adults. His main finding was that a change of attitude was required in educational policy, inasmuch as Ad./ed. should be taken more seriously and should not be seen as having marginal importance, merely helping adult to use their leisure time fruitfully. From this point of view he advocated that the status of Ad./ed. be raised with more research into future needs and more training for staff to teach adults -androgogy- not pedagogy.
The Russell report (1973) stimulated much debate and further research by the Advisory Council for Adult and Continuing Education (ACACE) as well as the Leverhulme programme of study into the future of H/ed. following publication of the report.
It is also noticeable that the number of Ph.D.theses dealing with Ad./ed. has grown significantly since then, having nearly doubled in number from 13 in 1974 to 23 in 1984.
The underlying key propositions that this report made are best quoted directly from its introduction :-
In our changing and evolving society the explicit and latent demands for all kinds of adult education have increased and will continue to increase.Adults, in their own right, have claims for the provision of a comprehensive service which can satisfy these demands in appropriately adult ways; all areas of education will be enriched if demands for the education of adults are met. Within the community there exists an enormous reservoir of human and material resources; a relatively modest investment in adult education - in staff, buildings, training and organisation - could release these resources to adult education for the benefit of individuals and the good of society. The successful development of adult education depends in very large measure on a consistent lead and direction being given by the Secretary of State. (p.1X)Here Russell points the way, in emphasising the special needs of adults in that there should be more provision made for a variety of courses at different levels. Thus Sheats (1975) in Education and the School, described a concept of lifelong education as being able to take place:
"Anywhere, anytime and anyhow".In The Adult Learner: A neglected Species . Knowles (1984) points out that in an androgogical model:
the process prepares the procedure for involving the learners, establishes a climate conducive to learning and provides a quality of environment to encourage learning. (p.117)Although this book describes a situation which may be impossible to implement entirely, the principles underlined are very relevant to this research project carried out at CCAT.
Flude and Parrott (1979) in Education and the Challenge of Change reinforce this argument for what they call "recurring education", that is courses of different length, depth and aims designed to meet both the needs of vocational training to keep up to-date with the increasing rate of technological changes as well as developing the potential of an individual to the utmost. This notion of the growth of "continuing" adult education is highlighted by Flude and Parrot when they comment that:_
Nowadays teachers can only resist pressures from employers for more strictly relevant educational experience because they believe that they have only a relatively short period in which to transmit their version of our accumulated wisdom and civilisation. Equally it is only possible for employers to resist the demand for paid educational leave because they too, have been conditioned to think of education as a childhood activity. The answer to many problems in British education lies in some form of recurrent education system which would enable all individuals to build throughout life on the foundations laid in a childhood period of compulsory education. (ibid. p.1)
The pressures from the world of work to keep up with the accelerating rate of technological change and the wishes of an individual to follow a career that is self-fulfilling, increases the demand for educational courses at all levels. The fact that now more than one career in a lifetime is possible for many will only add to this demand. The opportunity to take up H/ed. courses by more adults has fuelled the need for "Return to Study" courses; "Conversion" courses to bridge the gap for aspiring students who left school with the wrong qualifications for a particular course, such as a Science degree; and " Access" courses which may be specifically connected to a degree course at another institution such as that provided at the City Literary Institute and many others.
Here the differences between the education of adults and that of the s/l going straight into H/ed. become clearer. The demand for more Ad./ed. may be forcing changes in attitudes towards education both in colleges and also among employers. There is an increasing awareness that some change is necessary in the area of higher education to take the needs of adults into consideration.There is also a growing opinion that more adult education is a "good thing" and deserves to be expanded. This will be discussed further in section 3.
The report of the Advisory Council for Adult and Continuing Education, (ACAC&E) 1982 Continuing Education: from Policies to Practice argues persuasively for expansion of educational facilities for adults:
If it is to promote adaptability and creativity in the adult population. continuing education cannot be related solely to work. While economic success depends on the technical knowledge and skills of the working population, the success of specific job training depends on the general educational attainments of those being trained. Adaptability at work is also reflected in the ability to work co-operatively with others and to contribute to the shaping and taking of decisions. These abilities are most readily formed through the cultural and social aspects of general education. Just as good training for employment develops skills beyond the needs of specific jobs, so general education develops skills relevant to all the demands of everyday working life. Continuing education must therefore be comprehensively planned to include all the forms of education and training available to adults beyond their initial education. (p.3)
However, while there is a growing body of informed opinion that argues for the wider provision of education for adults, and while new course structures are appearing which carry both vocational and non-vocational elements, many m/s have to adjust to traditional courses and learning modes which they may find difficult initially.
There is relatively little literature on the subject of how m/s actually cope with a learning structure principally geared to the needs and life-style of the average s/l, though the work of Snyder (1970) in The Hidden Curriculum describes his experience with students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which has some bearing on the experiences of m/s. Snyder demonstrates the phenomenon known as "cognitive dissonance" that occurs when there is a discrepancy between what the student is told and and what actually happens. Thus in the introduction to the course the tutors might say that they were looking for imaginative and original material, but when this was produced by a student they were given poor grades or marks. The student had to recognise the "hidden curriculum"; hence:
The question for the student is not only what he will learn but how he will learn. (p.4)
Each student figures out what is actually expected of him as opposed to what is formally required.
Snyder describes the various strategies that students adopted to cope with this situation, such as the use of "selective negligence"; developing an attitude of "a game to master" towards the attainment of good grades; or to become free of the "hidden curriculum" by building up one's own self-confidence on a personal level.
All students, including adult learners, have to engage in such strategies; they were seen in this cohort and will be described in Chapter 6. (2)
One issue does get considerable attention in the literature,however, and it was seen as being of primary importance.This is the motivation that drives a m/s to seek out H/ed. although this could result in a situation which makes great demands in terms of time, money, labour and, in many cases, stress. Despite such difficulties motivation is still strong. Why should this be so?
While this brief outline of overlapping and complementary reasons for returning to education is no more than a "thumbnail sketch", it does suggest the complex motivational pattern that may underlie the final decision to return.
Much of the literature on motivation tends to breakdown this complexity for analytical purposes. Houle (1983) for example, identifies three general but discrete areas of motivation, as follows:
Motivation Purpose Goal orientated _ _ _ _ _to gain a specific object. Activity orientated _ _ _forthe sake of the activity itself. Learning orientated _ _ _ learning for its own sake. (p.66)
This classification is not only of a wide and very generalised nature. It also fails to identify how the three areas may overlap. Marstain and Smart (1974) provide perhaps a more usefully focussed guide to the reasons for m/s returning to H/ed. They identify some of the motives that m/s typically display in answer to social surveys enquiring into their reasons for returning to education, as follows:
Social relationships. External expectations. Social welfare. Professional advancement. Escape/stimulation. Cognitive interests. (p.86)
These classifications cover a wide spectrum of vocational and non-vocational motives for returning to higher education, and the list is fairly typical of the literature on this subject. While Houle's approach identified people belonging to three groups but gave no indication whether students may belong to more than one of those groups, Marstain and Smart present an analysis from statistical material without showing how these classifications manifest themselves within students in any motivational priority.
The weakness of these overly and reified mechanical accounts of motivational patterns is revealed in those few places in the literature where there is some discussion of the actual experiences of adult students. For example, Enid and Edward Hutchinson in Learning Later , (1978) described their pioneering work at the City Literature Institute (the "City Lit".) with their "Fresh Horizons" course which they started in 1966. This was a forerunner of the many introductory courses that are springing up in in adult educational centres in many towns and cities in Britain for m/s who lack the necessary entrance qualifications for H/ed. In their prospectus they offered:
A course in self-discovery and self-development leading to a vocationally orientated full-time Adult Education course. There are no entry requirements, other than commitment, and no examinations are held. (p.18)
They found that the great majority of students were women who were looking for mental stimulation. Attitudes of married women who came to the course were changing in that they were no longer so wholly housebound, while single women were concerned with catching up with their educational qualifications (3) because of the increasing demands for higher standards required before entering professional or vocational training courses. For example, two areas which have been traditionally very attractive for mature women returning to work, teaching and nursing, demand more formal training than in the past; teachers now need the equivalent of a degree standard course (3) and at least two"A" levels are required for anyone aspiring to enter training for a State Registered Nurse.
While there may be a strong link between educational studies and vocationalism, this may not be shared equally by those returning to education.
Johnson and Bailey (1984) in their study Mature Students: Perceptions and Experience of Full-time and Part-time Higher Education found that a vocational career motivation was particularly strong in younger men. As shall be seen, this is something that is also apparent in this work. They found that the majority of older women were more concerned with self-development, finishing the course for its own sake and for the social interaction that the institution provided.
This has been shown to be the case even in adverse circumstances. Challis (1976) found the strength of motivation in m/s overcame their multiple problems, such as lack of finance, limited time due to family commitments and undeveloped study skills. These were offset by the:
Heightened awareness of the pleasure of academic study-an unexpected finding in many cases.(p.222)
Motivation, then, has traditionally been categorised as being either vocationally or non-vocationally based for returners to education. But in many cases there is a combination of both motives, even if it be more strongly biased towards one or other category.The emphasis therefore, that the DES (1985) report Development of H/.ed. into the 1980's gives to vocational training may not necessarily fit into the aspirations of many m/s thinking of returning to f/t H/ed., as shall be shown in Chapter 5 p.93.
The aims of the DES report were to:
a) Encourage the view that education be used as a means of helping economic development. b) Encourage institutions to be concerned with attitudes in the business world, and to develop links with industry and the local community. c) Encourage finance to pay for training and increase the effectiveness of the the control over spending.
The report goes on to spell out the direction that the DES would like H/ed. to go, as indicated by the following passage:
Although a wide range of courses is available at different levels to meet the needs of industry, commerce, the professions and the public sevices (including opportunities for study p/t and in mid-career) there is continuing concern that H/ed. does not always respond sufficiently to changing economic needs. (p.3)
In other words, vocational education seen as being of value to the economy, was to receive priority of funding. Despite the wishes of the DES for an acceleration of the expansion in technological and vocational courses, the demand for degrees in the humanities and social sciences remains high.
The following DES statement is somewhat reluctant in its concessions to the value of arts courses and could be seen as being sexist in its implications:
The main thrust of this section is towards technological and vocational courses ... For many occupations a rigorous arts course provides an excellent preparation for jobs which carry responsibility and are personally and intellectually demanding...Those responsible for counselling intending students(and,perhaps, particularly girls)about their subject choices should be aware that the proportion of arts places in Higher Education as a whole can be expected to shrink. (p.6)
The direct association of vocational courses with the economic good of the state has, in the past, been shown to be spurious. Indeed, governments are notoriously bad at predicting man-power requirements as pointed out by Teichler et al (198O).(4) They quote from an article which reports that:
The fears of educationalists, that the pressure from politicians to change the pattern of educational provision and opportunity, for economic reasons, will adversely effect general educational values, are expressed by Fowler (1981) in Educational Change. Writing about the pattern of educational policy during the 1970's he argues that:
A recent comparative study of the employment situation of college graduates in a number of industrial countries has provoked the conclusion that "most of the countries which have had long prognosis experience such as Japan, U.S.A. and Sweden are becoming more and more inclined to refrain from making the kind of rigid supply-and- demand prognoses that have (once again ) become common practice in W. Germany." It should be added that these are precisely the countries which have a higher proportion of University graduates than does W. Germany. (pp. 434-7)
Firstly there is the familiar concern developing in the 1970's, much more acute concern than had been expressed at earlier times, about the "failure" of the educational system to supply the needs of the economy or of industry or of the "wealth creating sector of the economy". But that is not a failure of the educational system, it is a consequence of economic failure, and it can be seen in many countries,not simply Britain, though it is more acute here because of our economic failure. (p.14)He goes on to argue that, as well as trying to impose economic values and priorities on to education,in order to influence the choice of courses by students in H/ed., there was a danger of an imposed political ideology in the area of education. The previous consensus between Whitehall and L.E.A. concerning the ideological aims of education was being eroded by the DES who failed to appreciate the nature of the educational process in general terms in relation both to the teaching profession as well as to each individual pupil.
Thus Squires,(1981) in Access to Education, commented that:
....the problems of forecasting demand for higher education are much greater than those of a manufacturer forecasting the demand for even a new and untried market product. Where the market product has a definite price, education is an aggregate of a lot of different costs which are difficult to estimate individually (e.g.fees. travel, books and materials, loss of income, loss of overtime; possibly offset by grants or loans.) And where the market product may often have a fairly precise benefit some of the benefits of post- school education are notoriously difficult to quantify. (p.16O)Acker, (1984), makes the point that when H/ed. is seen as being purely functional in socio-economic terms, then elitism can become a double-edged weapon when "returners" in teacher-training may be discriminated against in favour of s/l who may be thought to be more up-to-date in their thinking. The expected advantage of maturity may not be forthcoming in this kind of situation.
It may be that the experiences of m/s, even more than s/l, will demonstrate that motivation cannot be conveniently labelled as being of one type rather than another and that the continuing emphasis that this government is giving to economic factors is misplaced, as far as the educational aspirations of students entering H/ed. are concerned.
Some more sociologically based research on motivation has put forward the notion of the so-called "trigger" mechanism to explain decisions that may be taken by an individual at certain times of the life-cycle.
D. Levinson's The Seasons of a Man's Life (1978) looked at various stages of adult development and showed that there was a definite pattern in a person's lifelong decision making process - part of which may well be a decision to return to H/ed. He divided this pattern into four stages of development - childhood and adolescence, early adulthood,middle adulthood and late adulthood. In each of these, such component parts as occupation, marriage/family, friendship and peer relationships, and leisure are explored. It was at the interstices of these stages that a new change of direction may be determined, and this was amply demonstrated among the cohort that form the basis of this study.(5).
Motivation is a large component part of the desire of a m/s to return to H/ed.But it is important to see whether the situation regarding the access to education for m/s has improved or changed, especially through modifications to traditional admissions procedures. The greater the availability of courses and the more people are aware of this, the more likely will the A/ed. "culture" grow in society.
M/s applying to CCAT to read for a degree course were at some disadvantage when compared with s/l, for whom the procedures were primarily designed.That is,they were tailored to candidates who had just completed a two year sixth form course of study culminating in the "A" level examinations, had the necessary social and educational "capital" (Bourdieu,1977) to complete the required form, and who were familiar with the necessary procedures through advice from school teachers. There was,in a sense, as much a "hidden curriculum" in the admission procedure as there was in the teaching/ learning process.
In 1984, when this project started all applicants had to apply directly to the college but from 1988 CCAT will become part of the PCAS organisation (Polytechnics Central Admission Scheme) which will be equivalent to the UCCA scheme.(6) In some ways this might make the application process even more geared to the traditional s/l as the bureaucratic constraints of a national admissions system begin to operate. The Robbins report in 1963 advocated that entrance to University or institution of H/ed. should be available to all who who were accepted on a degree course by virtue of having the necessary qualification of passes in five GCE examinations, of which two should be at "A" level standard. This recommendation was geared primarily towards the school leaver. In more recent years the CNAA has suggested that the criteria should be changed to a scheme of selection to satisfy the authorities that:
there is a reasonable expectation that the student is able to complete the course successfully.
The CNAA has produced some literature for m/s which spells out the suggested course of action for students applying to institutions under its aegis who might be non-standard entrants, as follows:
Admission to courses is at the discretion of colleges but the CNAA does, however, ask colleges to select very carefully by seeking evidence of some kind of candidates' capacity to meet successfully the demands of the course for which they have applied.For those m/s who apply without the usual academic qualifications, CNAA advocates more flexibility, and that selection should consist of a mixture of personal interviews and a suitable written test for the required course.
In the University sector the volume of m/s applications is much lower than in CNAA validated institutions.(7) However , a good illustration of a well established scheme is the Mature Entry Scheme of the Joint Matriculation Board of the North West Universities (Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and Birmingham), described by Smithers and Griffin (1986).
This Board has had some years experience of admitting m/s without formal qualifications as they started this scheme in 192O with those affected by conditions brought about by the First World War. They tried to make their requirements fit each individual's circumstances and, where there were no formal qualifications, provided a Matriculation examination to take its place. Numbers applying have steadily increased and in 1980, 40% of those who sat the examination gained a place - 187 students - a threefold increase since 1975. The authors concluded that m/s were more likely to get good degrees than s/l and that they were less likely to "drop out". They implied that the "A" level requirement asked of s/l was not a reliable test as to how students would perform on a degree course. However, many applicants were put off by the complexities of the procedure and the unknown aspects of the Matriculation examination itself. In 1980,( the latest year for which figures were known) 58.4% of enquirers did not go on to apply for selection. The procedure itself consisted of filling in a J.M.B. form; an UCCA form; one or more interviews - some requiring written work; and the special Matriculation examination for m/s; a quite formidable undertaking for an individual where no formal preparatory classes were provided.
The experience of "non-standard" entry (the term used to describe m/s who applied for entry to degree courses without the usual admission qualifications) was explored by Evans (1984). He looked at the records of CNAA institutions and contacted admission officers for statistical evidence. But he found that there was so little sense of a standard procedure among the institutions concerned, that it was impossible to obtain a clear picture of what was actually happening, so his statistical analysis had to remain fairly crude. He advocated the setting up of a pilot scheme stating that:
There needs to be some pilot schemes for the assessment of experiential learning to establish reliable and valid procedures which can be commended to institutions on the basis of publicly accepted evidence. (p.18)
These suggestions have been acted upon by the Development Services of the CNAA who are undertaking considerable research in this field. Their Project Outlines (June 1987) described eight different research schemes whose results are due to be published between September 1987 and September 1988. They covered such areas as Assessment of Prior Learning and Improving Access Networks and Curricula .
The Hutchinsons (1978) ascribed the success of their introductory courses in F/ed. for adults, which they started at the City Literate Institute in 1968, to the fact that no entry qualifications were needed to enrol. Once some self-confidence was built up the students students were ready to go on to more advanced courses and never "looked back." This was helped by ILEA providing a discretionary grant for a one year f/t "bridging" Return to Study course which was,in turn, linked to a CNAA scheme whereby certain London Polytechnics made places available for m/s on their degree courses. These students were then entitled to a mandatory grant.
Evans (1980) has warned that, unless admission procedures take on the challenge of validating work and life experiences of m/s, who might not have the same academic qualifications as a s/l, then H/ed. for m/s will be greatly hampered. The following demonstrates his argument:
For those who have acquired such knowledge and skills from their experience of working and living, the question arises whether that kind of attainment level of learning can be accepted as valid in the same way as formally acquired learning is recognised through the possession of certificates to prove it. If such knowledge and skills are not deemed suitable for consideration on the same terms as formally acquired learning, it seems that once again higher education will be regarded as somewhat unresponsive to the conditions of life of its potential students. (p.12)
The pressure to adopt a more flexible and, some would argue, an "enlightened",admissions policy in public sector institutions, comes not merely from the questioning of traditional policies. With the need to respond to falling numbers of s/l due to demographic changes, colleges such as CCAT are making efforts to attract more m/s to make up the numbers. Change is being forced upon institutions of H/ed. to provide a more flexible admissions policy to sustain overall student numbers. Undoubtedly this will in turn put pressure on institutions to provide the sort of educational environment that will suit the varying needs of a less homogenous group than is found among s/l. Whether they respond to this pressure positively is another matter, as Evans' comments above indicate.
Over the years education has been seen as a remedy for many social ills - hence the gradual rise in the age at which compulsory schooling must end - now standing at 16 years. While there may be greater opportunity, there is no reason to assume that there will be equality in taking up this opportunity among all classes and between the sexes. Optimistic claims were originally made for the concept of comprehensive education (now generally adopted in Britain) regarding social equality. But little improvement has been seen in the numbers of w/c children entering H/ed. relative to other social classes,though it is true that the absolute number has increased.(8) Hartung et al,(1980) pointed out that:
Efforts to dismantle educational hierarchies and equalize competency levels are quite obviously not enough to reduce social inequality or remove the grounds for its legitimization. There are two fundamental obstacles to any reform- orientated educational policy. One is that even in the educational system itself there are enormous constraints affecting any policy designed to promote equal opportunity and a uniform level of qualification throughout the population. Second, it has been shown that the expectations addressed to government with regard to planning and designing educational processes in a rational way cannot be addressed to the same quarter when it comes to shaping developments in the occupation system e.g. establishing recruitment criteria and defining occupational functions. (p.126)
There is still much debate in sociological terms about whether this discrepancy might be mainly due to lack of opportunity rather than lack of interest (9). Goldthorpe et al.1980 showed that, despite post-war efforts to equalise opportunity, especially in education, reforms have not significantly succeeded in making a more open society. However, upward mobility changes that were apparent were attributed to a growth in educational opportunities. Expanding this argument Wolpe and Donald,(1983), note that:
In a period of mass youth unemployment, the route through educational qualifications to h/ed. or a well-paid job _ always a narrow one _ can seem impassable. Paradoxically, though, the old idea that education should provide qualifications or skills which can improve the chances of employment _ the traditional view of the educational market place _ reasserts itself all the more strongly when the competition for work becomes more intense. (p.VIII)Although the authors of these studies were concerned primarily with secondary schooling, their findings can be extrapolated into A/ed. as many authors (Bernstein 1975, Halsey et al.1977, Plowden Committee 1967,) have shown that the school experience greatly influences adult attitudes towards education. (1O) For example. it might be argued that w/c children were more likely to see schooling in institutional terms, as a way of developing different skills to get a "good job" on leaving school at sixteen. This partly reflects the very real pressure put on w/c youth to bring some income into households where parents were unlikely to earn enough to allow their children the chance of continuing their education beyond secondary level. M/c children, almost literally, could "afford" to be "academic" and less directly instrumental, in their secondary school career. This was, perhaps, why evidence suggests that more w/c students return to H/ed. courses mainly for vocational reasons while m/c students do so for mainly non-vocational reasons. Not only did the latter carry earlier expectations of schooling with them, but their sustained class differences allowed some to be "non-vocational". Thus the report of ACACE,(1982) states:
Potential participants in continuing education can be characterised broadly as falling into two types: w/c people who want to improve their employment prospects, and m/c people who want to participate in general culture or follow personal interests. This is not, of course,to say that all w/c or all m/c participants will have these attitudes, but the correlation seems to be strong.(p.4)
The data to be presented later partly bear out these findings although, as suggested earlier, there was also a stronger element of a mixture of both vocational and non-vocational motives seen in students of all classes with a bias towards one aspect that does not necessarily follow typical class lines.
Associated with this class aspect of variation in orientation of adults to H/ed. was an apparent sex difference noted by some authors. The Hutchinsons (1978) noted, for example:
It can be agreed that most of the "widespread changes in social conditions and attitudes in this century have affected women more than men" but there has been at least one notable exception - the comparatively large extension of post-school education enjoyed by boys and men in the past 25 years,almost entirely related to their work ...On the whole, so far as men are involved in some form of adult education, it is much more likely to be career related. (p.29)
The point is often made that women make up the majority of those attending "Return to Study" classes and that where mixed courses are held, such as at the City Literary Institute in London, the men tend to be younger and more vocationally minded than the women, who are usually older and more concerned with self-development. Part of this difference may be connected with the role that women play in the care of children and dependent relatives which confines them to the home.The data collected in this study indicated that this was especially apparent in m/c families where there had not been a strong tradition of women going out to work.
Smithers and Griffin (1986) also reported in their findings among m/s that men tended to be younger than women, which they suggest may be due to the fact that men are often more mobile than women, who frequently have family responsibilities.
The lower social and geographical mobility of women was sometimes reflected in course enrolments. For example, Jones and Johnson (1983) described their experiences with a "New Horizons" course, aimed at local students. 9O% of the students were women. The course was held once a week for an academic year and 4O-5O% of these students went on to other classes. The drop-out rate was 15%. These results were positive enough to encourage them to continue, and they demonstrated that there was a demand for this type of course that catered for the less mobile.
In general, there has been an overall increase in the female participation rate in adult education, as Cross (1981) found. She quoted figures for women students in universities which showed that these had risen from 29% in 1966 to 57% in 1978.
The change in social attitudes towards a greater gender equality is becoming apparent in the sphere of H/ed. which at one time was almost entirely dominated by masculine interests. However,these may still dominate in cases of traditional degree courses where a masculine interest is reflected in the course structure and admission requirements. In such circumstances, where they do gain admission,mature women students are most likely to be under pressure, especially those from the w/c. The content of such courses may also be firmly entrenched: the opposition that tutors face, ( often from fellow-tutors) when first attempting to introduce options specifically dealing with "women's studies" e.g. on English or History courses,is symptomatic of this resistance. This opposition may decline if and when these options are no longer seen as a novelty,nor as purely "feminist, non-academic" subjects. (9)
The concept of "career" in a sociological sense was developed by H.Becker in his work with deviancy in the so-called Chicago School of sociology during the 195Os and 196Os and which followed the teaching of Everett Hughes, who opened up areas of investigation in sociological concepts in education and work.
Becker (1973) in Outsiders: studies in the sociology of deviance, defines the sociological sense of "career" as follows:
Originally developed in studies of occupations, the concept refers to the sequence of movements from one position to another in an occupational system made by any individual who works in that system. Furthermore, it includes the notion of "career contingency", those factors on which mobility from one position to another depends. (p.24)This concept of "career" seemed to be a useful interpretive framework within which one could explore the situations that the m/s encountered over the three years of the conventional degree course that they were following. The formal structures of the course needed to be successfully negotiated in order to complete the student career, and there were factors, as will be seen, which were contingent to m/s. The whole sequence of events over the three years were not merely different, but more demanding, than experienced by the s/l. Associated with this concept is the related notion of "deviancy". Of course, unlike Becker,this project was not concerned with the criminal sense of deviancy, rather being used to describe a situation of non-conformity. S. Cohen in Images of Deviance, defines deviancy thus:
... and a sociological truism has been reasserted: namely that deviance is not a quality inherent in any behaviour or person, but rests on society's reaction to certain types of rule-breaking. (p.14)
In the case of m/s, because of their age and maturity, they were seen as a minority group in a population consisting mainly of s/l.
M/s were worried about how they might be accepted by the majority of students - the s/l - and this worry was reinforced when m/s met suspicion and incomprehension among family and friends, when the decision to become a student was announced. It does seem that being a"student" is associated with a young and inexperienced s/l.
Becker recognises that the perceptions of "deviancy" by actors is contextual and dynamic: as he says,
A society has many groups,each with its own set of rules, and people belong to many groups simultaneously. A person may break the rules of one group by the very act of abiding by the rules of another group.Is he,then,deviant? (p.184)In some ways,this is the very problem confronted by m/s.
As time elapsed, m/s negotiated the various stages of the course and found they could meet the demands made upon them as students, as well as their other roles outside the college. By conforming to the student role, the feelings of deviancy fell away, as will be demonstrated later.
M/s found it more difficult to accept the disciplines of their subjects, such as criticism of their essays, but claimed that they were helped by their "experience of life". (p216)
He identified some problems among a small sample of students at Ealing Technical College who were reading for a first degree: these included fears concerning the examination at the end of the first year, financial worries where a large drop in income had occurred, and a lack of time to join in social activities in the evenings because of family ties. On the other hand he showed that m/s lacked any sense of awe of the staff and were able to take an active part in tutorials and seminars. They were also able to express a heightened awareness of the pleasure they found in academic study. Cross (1981) laid the myth of declining learning capacity due to age. New research by educational psychologists has identified the problems that face older students which can be overcome by correct teaching methods. Thus androgogy - the teaching of adults as opposed to pedagogy - the teaching of children - has been advocated by Knowles (1984). This involves making teaching more project orientated with the projects made relevant to the life or work experience of the student; making students take more responsibility for their own learning programme and providing a suitable environment to facilitate this process. The experience gained by the Open University has been valuable in this sphere and they continue to do much research in the field of adult higher education.(12)
Smithers and Griffin (1986) pointed out that many m/s lacked confidence in the new situation in which they found themselves on becoming students, especially in the first year. They emphasised the necessity of providing an "advice centre" to help prevent problems developing to the point where students may "drop out". However, their findings indicate that the "drop out" levels in m/s were lower than in s/l,which seemed to indicate that when a problem was identified and remedial measures were applied in time, such a strategy as this could be effective.
Like many other authors, Challis mentioned the high motivation displayed by m/s which helped them to overcome problems. He argued that m/s looked upon their success at being admitted to a degree course as a "victory", whereas a s/l saw admission to higher education as "normal" but admission to a college of advanced education as a "defeat" or second chance, because they failed to obtain a place at university.
From the preceding review of the literature it is clear that changes and developments must be expected in the field of Ad./ed. and that research in all aspects of H/ed. affecting m/s is needed to establish guide lines for the most useful and efficient way of managing the growth of numbers of m/s returning to H/ed. The longitudinal approach taken in this study should be particularly valuable in this regard as it has enabled the examination in depth of as many aspects of the subject as was possible.
This enabled the research to develop the concept of the "career" of m/s, the developmental process through which "mature" students become in effect, "students". The studies conducted thus far tend to present "snap- shots" of m/s experience and motivation, and often reduce the complexity of m/s life to discrete aspects for analysis, perhaps ignoring their interplay. I hope to show how the themes presented here can be inter_connected, combined and presented to produce a more complex account of the situation than is available at the moment.
This seems to be particularly needed in the areas of access to education and motivation. The change for a m/s to the student life is of a greater magnitude than that of a s/l who steps out of school into another institutional environment. However, for a m/s who may view an educational institution, perhaps, with forgotten resonances of both fear and failure, this change of direction may have much more significance. Moreover, m/s are in some ways acting "deviantly", even though greater institutional provision of courses for them may weaken such a label. Whatever the actual circumstances that confront the m/s, they start their "new" educational career from a rather different position than that of s/l.
1. See chapter 1. p.1 for definition of m/s. 2. See chapter 6.p.164. 3. There were an exceptionally large number of teachers enrolling for an O.U. degree at its inception in 1971. 4. "The historical background of the development of technical education in Britain, which separated technical or vocational training from general education in 1902, has persisted in that spececialisation for H/ed. has occurred at an earlier age than that found elsewhere in Europe." Quotation from Deutsche Universitaszeitung No.11. pp.434-437 by Tessering, T. 1975. 5. See case Histories in Chapter 5 and Life Histories in Chapter 6. 6. Joining PCAS will alter control of admissions to CCAT. In future this will be done centrally and so the individual selection procedure of CCAT will no longer operate. However, it will ensure that the present uncertainty concerning numbers on each course which exists at the moment until the beginning of each year will be largely eliminated. 7. In October,1984 University of Cambridge had 1/2 % of under-graduates enrolled as m/s. 8. Cross, K.P.(Jossey_Bass)1981 has shown that:_ "A lack of interest in education is markedly greater in lower socio-economic classes and is a chief barrier to adult education." 9. See Acker,S.& Warren,D. Is Higher Education Fair to Women? 1984. SRHE & FFER. Nelson, London. 10.Cross, K.P. Op.cit. "The significance for life-long learning .... lies in the well-established research findings that the more education people have the more education they want, and the more they participate in further learning activities. (p.15) 11.See Acker, S, & Warren, D. Op. cit. p.40. 12.See Giles, K. 1981, O.U. Rogers, J. 1977, O.U. Tight, M.(Ed.) 1983, O.U.
Acker,S.& Piper,D.W Is Higher Education Fair to Women ? SRHE & NFER. Nelson.1984 A.C.A.C.E., Continuing Education: From Policies to Practice. Report. 1982 Becker,H. Outsiders:Studies in the Sociology of Deviance 1973. Free Press. New York. Bernstein,B. & Davies, B. "Some Sociological Comments on Plowden". in Wilson,M.(Ed.) Social and Educational Research in Action. 1978. O.U. Bourdieu,P.& Passeron,J. Reproduction in Education Society & Culture. 1977. Sage. London. P.Broadfoot et al. Politics and Educational Change , Croom Helm; London, 1981 Challis,R. "Experiences of Mature Students." Studies in Higher Education 1, No.2 1976. pp.209-222. CNAA Development Services. Project Outlines . June, 1987. Cohen,S. Images of Deviance. Cross,P. Adults as Learners Jossey-Bass.San Francisco. 1981 Department of Education & Science. Development of Higher Education into the 1990's. May, 1985. Evans,N.(Ed). Education Beyond School . Grant McIntyre. 1980 Flude,R.& Parrot,A. Education and the Challenge of Change. O.U.1979 Houle,C.O. The Inquiring Mind . University of Wisconsin Press.:Madison. 1961. Hutchinson,E & E. Learning Later. Kegan Paul, London. 1978 Jarvis,P. Adult and Continuing Education . Croom Helm, London. 1983. Johnson,R. Bailey,R. Mature Students:Perceptions and Experience of Full Time and Part Time Higher Education. DES, London. 1984. Jones,B.& Johnson,R."New Horizons". Adult Education . 56,No.3. pp.218_225.1983. Knowles, M. The Adult Learner .Gulf Publishing Co. 1984. Levinson,D. The Seasons of a Man's Life . Ballantine Books,New York.1979. Morstain, B.R.& Smart,J.C. "Reasons for Participation in Adult Education Courses"'. Adult Education Vol.24, No.2. 1974. pp.83-98. Russell,Sir L. Adult Education: a Plan for Development. DES.HMSO. 1973. Sheats,P. Reflections on Lifelong Education and the School . Dave,K.(Ed.) UNESCO Institute for Education. 1975. Smithers,A. Griffin,A. The Progress of Mature Students . JMB.1976. Snyder, B. The Hidden Curriculum . M.I.T. Boston. 1970. Squires,G. Access to H/ed. (Ed.) Fulton,O.1981, SRHE. Teichler, U, et al. Higher Education and the Needs of Society .ILO for UN. 1980. Wolpe,A.& Donald,J. Is There Anyone Here from Education? Pluto, London. 1983.
Contents Page | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 (appendices)