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A noticeboard for independent providers of Liberal Education
Website currently being updated, 15th July 2013
This website is being established in the United Kingdom, to assist independent providers of Liberal Education in advertising their courses. While public interest in Liberal Education is strong and growing, institutional support is in marked decline. The Workers Educational Association (WEA) seems to have become a virtual training arm of the UK government's Learning and Skills Council (LSC), providing instructors for learners rather than tutors for students. Tutors have found themselves obliged to sign contracts of employment which require them to join the government-sponsored Institute of Learning. This body acknowledges neither expertise nor experience but only formal qualifications in 'Education'. Experts on non-academic fields experience particular difficulty. An antiquarian, for example, found that he could not be employed as a tutor by the WEA as he lacked a formal qualification; years of experience, authorship of books and fellowship of a learned society proved insufficient. Tutors cannot work for the WEA on a self-employed basis. They are also burdened with paperwork which has no relevance, either to liberal education or to the needs of their students. A retired builder or bishop has no interest in training for a new career! In consequence of these changes, the WEA seems to be finding it difficult to recruit and retain tutors. It is not surprising, therefore, to discover that the range of courses on offer is in marked decline in many parts of the country.
British universities are now showing less interest in liberal education, not only in the formal education of full-time students but also in support of courses for the public. Manchester, the largest university in the UK, abandoned its Department of Extramural Studies some years ago and has now taken the decision to close its programme of Courses for the Public. Many tutors and students are dismayed by this decision, which appears to have been made on rather weak financial grounds and may well betray the objects of the University's founders. By contrast with the University, the nearby independently run Wilmslow Guild grows from strength to strength. Its membership is at an all time high and courses regularly run with thirty to forty students. In short, there is no general deficiency of tutors nor lack of interested students, by no means all of whom are retired. Nevertheless, many retired members of our community are well informed and like to employ themselves in constructive enquiry. Their numbers are growing and most have incomes which are more or less recession-proof. Our students are keen to engage in collective enquiry, by discussion and by contributions from their own knowledge and experience.
Unfortunately, most parts of the country have no access to independent organisations such as the Wilmslow Guild and, as noted above, the WEA is no longer geared to provide liberal education. Increasing numbers of tutors now provide courses on an independent basis. They book their own venues and collect their own fees. Often, the main problem which independent tutors experience arises from a lack of advertising. Tutors may provide their own websites but these also need to be brought to public attention. The aim of this website is to provide a central noticeboard where tutors may either display details of their own courses or merely directions to their own websites. The aim is to keep costs as low as possible, by promoting this site amongst increasing numbers of tutors and their students and by way of information supplied to the media. If you are interested in this project, I should be glad to hear from you.