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Do university work-based learning short courses widen access to higher education and powerful knowledge?

Jones, Kirsten 2016. Do university work-based learning short courses widen access to higher education and powerful knowledge? EdD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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With Welsh Government and European Structural Fund (ESF) support, Welsh universities have been incentivised to engage regional employers in ‘upskilling’ working adults and encourage non-traditional routes into higher education. Participating universities have provided short accredited courses through work-based learning projects in subject areas identified as having skills deficits. Such instrumental curricula brought with them the need for tailored pedagogies and assessment strategies to support the achievement of higher education credits for these non-traditional university students. It is here that the link to the thesis’ theoretical framing is established. It draws on sociological curriculum theory that distinguishes and assigns power differentials to curriculum and which cautions against an overemphasis on skills-based knowledge within vocational curriculum. The premise is proposed that the knowledge type inherent to these work-based learning courses is very different to mainstream university curriculum and distances itself from theoretical ‘powerful’ knowledge (Young 2008) to the point it becomes powerless. Questions of curriculum equity within higher education are thus raised and considered in view of these courses as a recognised form of widening access to higher education activity. The empirical component of the thesis is qualitative and relates the experiences of work-based learning university lecturers and course participants to curriculum theory and the epistemic access (Morrow 2009) to which course participants were exposed. Twelve semi-structured interviews with university lecturers from three Welsh universities were undertaken along with six focus groups comprising work-based learning course participants. Findings reveal that characteristics associated with both widening access and powerful knowledge were apparent but inconsistent. For many stakeholders, the raison d'etre of the courses was the tangible ‘upskilling’ offered. Such views problematised the accredited higher education component of the courses. Conclusions offer that the approach taken by individual course participants and the lecturers’ pedagogic practice were key determinants in how courses were delivered, received and the extent to which powerful knowledge could be identified. This individual orientation similarly determined the potential for these courses to be transformative educational experiences.

Item Type: Thesis (EdD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 May 2017
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2022 15:53

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