The lecturer’s Higher Education Providers Union (HEPU) conference yesterday, ‘From incubator to composter’, endorsed the government’s commitment to compulsory lifelong education across all of the Former UK (FUK) States. Keynote speaker, Re-Education Minister Karl Corbyn Junior III, stressed that the Socialist Conservative Alliance Movement (SCAM) government would not back off from its promises last year, despite the emergence of many teething problems in the last few weeks, with, “We are determined to adhere to the Western European Confederation leisure time directive and free up time for educational activities for all……If you are not working you are always learning”. The CEO of the Higher Education Providers Union, Sally Forth was not able to attend the conference but reiterated her concerns about the burdens put upon existing staff in a message to delegates, “Academic staff in the FUKS are exempt from the leisure time directive and most work well over twenty hours per week already. They and their families will be the big losers in this unless funds for more staff are found urgently”.
Richard Head of The Union of British Industry was more positive and stressed the importance of high quality courses and re-education for the FUKS workforce. However, he voiced some concerns about how it is being funded through a National Education Service and in particular the liberal use of the National Access Number or NAN, “While having a NAN to help streamline access to courses is useful, use of the NAN is down to the employee’s choice alone. Employers need more of a say in what courses are relevant and economically useful. PM Margaret May sent out the wrong message when said she was interested in enrolling in a crop circle design course last year. This is a pointless skill for the modern day FUKS”
Problems emerging as some providers are cashing in.
Most of the afternoon was devoted to discussion of the problems with respect to workload. But a parallel session on ‘Misuse of the NAN and access abuses’ revealed several surprises and led to a hot debate that fuelled considerable anger. Critics of compulsory education and the NAN have been quick to seize upon stories about some universities concocting meaningless courses with a view to maximising profit. This was been directed in particular at the Alliance of Independent Provider or AIP Universities.
Many had predicted very early on that criminal practices would emerge to cash in on courses that don’t deliver. The conference heard of shocking instances that were being uncovered through a HEPU whistleblowing service. All of them related to the AIP universities with the University of Middle England (UME) topping the list of complaints.
One part-time degree course in ‘Cyber Marketing’ looked particularly interesting. Over three thousand students were enrolled from October of last year for a combination of online and in house lectures and tutorials. Each had to register for a marketing ‘project’ assignment to be completed by March of this year. The students were given various products to devise marketing strategies for. All of the products turned out to be related to UME commercial concerns and investments. More than a dozen students reported that they were conducting a cold-calling telemarketing project as part of their assignment.
In another case, several thousand students were enrolled on a part-time ‘General Leisure Studies’ degree. They were required to log on once a week and fill in how many hours they carried out leisure activities. The university automatically logged the hours as course time and ‘pocketed’ the fees through the NAN service. But it seems that an incentive was payed as a 20% 'kick back' to those enrolled who were simply avoiding compulsory education service to work in the black economy.
Virginia Fox, the CEO of UME, told us that courses were all “tailored to the needs of students” and her advice to those enrolled on the ‘General Leisure Studies’ degree course was that “there was no need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anyone but yourself”
Background to the conference and lifelong learning.
The annual conference has been a regular event for over fifty years with only one break in 2020 in the aftermath of the ‘incident’. It started its life called ‘From the cradle to the grave’ to signify the importance of education at all stages of the human life cycle. The name was changed in 2042 to reflect changes to birth and death practices two years earlier. Burial was banned on environmental grounds in 2039 followed by the banning of cremation in 2040. The FUKS adopted more environmentally friendly composting as standard practice from then on.
Problems with midwife services became very commonplace post-incident and this came to a head during the 2030s. By 2036, plans to streamline births on a stricter timetable were hatched. By 2040, natural birth was a thing of the past and all births in the FUKS were booked in advance. New born babies were all delivered premature, within a convenient nine to five timeslot, and transferred to pre-booked incubators.
Funding a perennial problem.
The challenge of funding of compulsory, and then lifelong, education has been a source of concern that goes back well into pre-incident times. The crisis in accumulated student loans escalated during the incident and the fall out is still affecting people fifty years later (see Timeline 2070 ‘Oldest graduate finally pays off loan’ Sunday January 12 2070). As the population expanded in the post-incident period, and compulsory education from the age of two was introduced, the strain on finances became an increasing burden. The previous FUKSIP government, under former PM Norman Larage and his now infamous ‘rabid acolytes’, introduced educational loans called Compulsory Ongoing Nurture or CON loans. These were issued to all families who wanted their children educated; despite it being compulsory to age eighteen. The CON loans were planned to be paid back on a rolling basis by parents and then the debt passed to their children later in life. This was extremely unpopular and there were legal challenges to the idea of issuing loans to two year olds. Many refused to pay as soon as they reached eighteen and the system started to crumble.
The decision by the current SCAM government to bring in a national education service and issue everyone with a NAN has its roots in pre-incident proposals. The SCAM government will use payments by all working people to fund all education throughout life. To access education from two years old to sixty, people would only have to turn to their NAN and register at any approved educational access point. From last year, all education is paid for at the access point of delivery and directly to the nursery, school, college or institution providing the educational service. Surcharges or fines on students are levied in cases where they were deemed to be deliberately abusing the system by disruptive behaviour or not attending.
By our retirement consultant Ronnie van Winkle.
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