Saturday, March 05, 2005

Parris on lifelong learning fiasco

In today's Times Matthew Parris comments on the £50 million blown on the UK e-University (see previous post):

"The demise of an old friend such as the e-university puts us in mind of other old mates we haven’t seen recently. How is the University for Industry doing, Gordon? Remember those speeches about “lifelong learning” and the “individual learning account”? No? Maybe Tony does . . .

'I am also passionately committed to the idea that education must be available throughout people’s lives . . . Only last week, the IPPR published plans to make a reality of the exciting idea of a University for Industry, with people using Individual Learning Accounts to fund lifelong learning . . .'

Words like 'passionately committed', 'exciting idea', and 'IPPR' are a bad combination in the field of public expenditure. And sure enough, nine years on, at God knows what cost, we learn that the "UfI will not be a learning provider. Instead it will act as: an endorser of other providers . . . encouraging them to fill gaps . . . commissioning material as necessary, a broker . . .”

Parris continues:

"Remember NHSU? Stumped? The National Health Service University, silly! “Health Secretary Alan Milburn this week unveiled an ambitious plan to create a National Health Service University by 2003 . . . Mr Milburn said: ‘Every nurse and every doctor, every cleaner and every therapist . . .’ ” (etc) . . . “The university will be modelled on successful corporate universities in the UK and elsewhere and will be delivered as a partnership between the NHS, existing universities and the private sector. We envisage the university being used by 100,000 NHS staff.”

How goes our old friend, the NHSU, Alan? I only ask because I’ve just Googled by mistake into an archive: a two-year-old French news report: “Tony Blair inaugure l’NHSU (National Health Service University) “Lors de l’inauguration de la NHSU, Tony Blair a déclaré qu’elle serait la plus grande université du monde. Cette université s’adresse à l’ensemble du personnel de la sant é qui représente donc plus d’un million d’étudiants potentials . . .”

Plus ça change. Plus ça fizzle out."

La plus grande du monde. That just about sums up the whole shooting match.

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