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System Blockages for Access to Education in Europe: Paper Commitments and Substantive Gaps

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Part of the Lifelong Learning Book Series book series (LLLB, volume 21)

Abstract

Two of the five EU benchmarks for Education and Training ET2020 are central to the issue of access to education for marginalised groups and are prima facie relevant to a view of access to education being an EU strategic priority on paper. These are that (1) the share of 30–34-year-olds with tertiary educational attainment should be at least 40 % and (2) an average of at least 15 % of adults aged 25–64 should participate in lifelong learning. There is a need to place opening up barriers to access to higher education more firmly on the policy agenda at EU level and across national levels in Europe. Despite a number of commitments in EU Council and Commission documents in the past decade, it appears that the equity, social cohesion and active citizenship issue of access to higher education for lower socio-economic groups are currently falling between two stools in relation to the ET2020 targets. It is relevant on paper to both higher education and lifelong learning benchmarks but arguably being sufficiently prioritised by neither.

Diversity of social classes and ethnicities at university offers the potential for an improved learning experience of students in areas of the humanities and social sciences in particular, where cultural dimensions are major aspects of knowledge development. In many such domains, quality and access can be not only reconciled but arguably require each other. This is a clear consequence of a Vygotskyan framework for intellectual development which prioritises sociocultural interaction as pivotal to learning. A university institutional culture needs to be evaluated with regard to its fostering of capacities in its students for relations with diverse ‘others’. This highlights the need for an accessibility index as an indicator of university quality internationally, at least for the humanities and social sciences. The EU Commission’s U-Multirank proposes to rate universities in five separate areas. A glaring omission here is a focus on access for diversity and community engagement. Despite the 50 indicators developed for community engagement in the Carnegie Foundation’s Classification in the USA, none of these directly address the issues of either accessibility or affordability.

Keywords

High Education Social Cohesion Lifelong Learning Active Citizenship Accessibility Index 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Educational Disadvantage Centre St. Patrick’s CollegeDublin City UniversityDublinIreland

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