FACE 2023 a time for energic, thoughtful reflection and collaboration
At the time of writing this the shortest serving Prime Minister in our history has just resigned from office, there has been a week of meetings to explore the yet further changes to Access and Participation Plans, the BBC has turned 100, and there have been wide discussions about how higher education and technical education can become closer bedfellows. In all of this, I have been reflecting on how structures and narratives have emerged in Post 18 education over the years. My recent research has been focusing on higher and further education collaborations in the context of post 18 learning. While the research is going it is clear that there is a significant desire to collaborate, but that the marketized economy that has emerged in education (arguably since before 1992) has limited the opportunities to do this. However, where collaboration has happened it has been powerful. The research to date demonstrates that without it guidance about progression and the benefits of higher levels of learning are more challenging to articulate, some opportunity to improve some aspects of social mobility are missed, and ideas cannot be enacted. In this context the funding models (and even ones proposed by people like Augar) seem insufficient to tackle the challenges ahead. What is clear is that education policy needs weave into any industrial strategy that may exist in the future. It needs to connect with planning policy, transport policy, health policy, culture policy and so much more. Yet collaboration is hard and it takes time.
Indeed, all development needs time, care, discussion, a research base, and a plurality of voices. It strikes me that we need to create space for this. So my attention is turning to the FACE 2023 conference running from the 28th – 30th June 2023 at the University of Derby. I know this may seem some distance away, and given all the changes in the past two weeks, there is an acceptance the World will look very different then. However, the conference provides a real space to collaborate, reflect and learn together. If the Covid-19 re-enforced anything for those of us working in education it was that education is an inherently collaborative activity. The need to come together and learn is more prevalent than ever. The conference itself will provide an opportunity to explore: the future of access and participation from policy, practice and research perspectives; the role of technical education in relation to improving social mobility; students, employers and practitioners as co-constructors of inclusive education; as well as providing space for reflection, planning and socialising. This is why the conference is entitled: ‘Face 2023: Co-constructing education for all’ There will be a wide range of topics discussed involving employers, universities, colleges, schools, students, local government, national government and more. By coming together and debating we may not be able to solve everything, but by collaborating on all these themes we can think about the future of higher education and higher level skills together.