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Higher than what?

By Patrick Ainley

Abstract

With its world heritage site Greenwich can potentially create a university that combines the best of the old with something new. That this does not happen automatically shows that the French sociologist of education, Pierre Bourdieu, was wrong in his contention that higher education is all form and no substance. But what is the substance of ‘higher’ learning? Higher than what? Further than where? as Sir Toby Weaver, author of our 1965 Woolwich Polytechnic speech, asked.\ud Some would answer that higher education’s (HE) ‘higherness’ comes from specialisation but this is also the case in further education (FE). Others would assert academic freedom allows HE teachers to set their own courses linked to their research interests. However, although there is not (yet) a National Curriculum for HE, many programmes of study have long been agreed with professional bodies. And in an institution where the main activity of most staff is teaching or supporting teaching, research and scholarship exist, we admit, only in ‘pockets’. So this is not distinctive either.\ud Therefore, when we are pushed to characterise ‘higherness’, we fall back on what we often look for in student assignments: A critical analysis of the information required. This is seen as ‘deep’ rather than ‘surface’ knowledge. Yet these tacit notions are often confused so that we know them when we see them but find them hard to justify explicitly. This contribution to Greenwich’s new pedagogic journal seeks to do this as simply as possible in the interests of stimulating debate and innovation

Topics: LB2300
Publisher: Educational Development, University of Greenwich
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:gala.gre.ac.uk:3809

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