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Staff to lobby University of Leicester ahead of decision on future of lifelong learning centre

15 September 2016 | last updated: 8 July 2019

Staff at the University of Leicester will lobby the university's highest decision-making body - its Council - when it meets tomorrow afternoon to make a crunch decision about the future of a popular centre for lifelong learning at the institution.

The University of Leicester has already undertaken a 90-day consultation on the future of the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning (VCLL). That ended with the university leadership team making a recommendation it is closed. But the final decision now rests with the Council.

Courses at the Vaughan Centre were suspended in June. Until then, the centre provided a range of high-quality lifelong learning opportunities, aimed primarily at those who have no, or limited, experience of higher education, or come from disadvantaged backgrounds. It also sought to inspire individuals at different stages of life, with different interests and career goals, to access learning.

The suspension of courses and review came despite previous assurances from the university that the facility was safe. Unions say drastic changes to the Vaughan Centre would also be at odds with the university's commitment to lifelong learning and reaching students that traditionally are underrepresented at university, as set out in its strategic plan*.

A petition to save the centre has collected more than 3,000 signatures. Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth has objected to the closure of the centre, and Leicester West MP Liz Kendall has written to the vice-chancellor expressing her concern about the plans.

The proposed closure comes at a time when the university has already announced 150 redundancies across the institution.

UCU regional support official Julie Cooper said: 'Universities cannot simply talk about reaching out to students without efforts to back those words up. The Vaughan Centre provides lifelong learning opportunities, aimed primarily at people who have no, or limited, experience of higher education, or come from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

'The university talks proudly about its commitment to these underrepresented groups and we will be reminded council members of this as we lobby them ahead of the meeting and urging them to seriously consider the university's plans.'

* 'As we continue our efforts to widen participation and increase access, we are launching a campaign to develop an educational outreach centre and to support research into how universities can best contribute to social mobility. Through formal access programmes and a broad commitment to outreach, as well as a focus on lifelong learning, we will explore ways to encourage all talented students to consider and enter higher education.' University of Leicester Strategic Plan, 2015, p. 17