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Changing Configurations in Adult Education in Transitional Times

International Perspectives in Different Countries

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Edited By Bernd Käpplinger and Steffi Robak

Change and transition are prominent buzzwords in the discourse upon adult education. International conferences like the European ESREA triennial research conference 2013 in Berlin focused on these terms. But is to deal with change and transitions really something new for adult education? What is new? What has changed? Which kind of transitions do we experience and how can we systematically observe and analyse them as researchers nowadays? This anthology wants to stimulate an exchange beyond buzzwords and European perspectives and investigate what these terms could mean for research in terms of institutionalisation and professionalization in adult education in different national contexts. Therefore, distinguished scholars were invited to contribute to this anthology.
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The Present and Future Situation of Adult Educators in the United Kingdom

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William Jones

1. Introduction

It can be safely and perhaps sadly claimed that there is in the United Kingdom at least no longer any such profession as ‘adult educator’. This is not to say there are not a great many individuals who work in adult education as a career post, and are dedicated to what they do. But when asked what is the defining identifier for their work they will not reply ‘adult educator’ nor will they say that this was ever an aspiration from an early age. The clear concomitant question is therefore ‘was this ever in fact true?’

This paper will explore the concept of ‘adult education’ as a profession, taking perspectives from points of view of policy, structure, academic discipline and history. The scope will be essentially that of the United Kingdom, but will resonate to some extent with a larger international perspective in part owing to the fact that the UK model was ‘exported’ to many other countries around the world.

The idea of a profession implies a strong measure of common purpose and identity, as is clear from the traditional professions in, say, medicine or law. It is characteristic of adult education that in comparison with the traditional professions it could be defined, to borrow Henry James’ definition of the novel, as a ‘loose baggy monster.’ By definition it operates on the edge of mainstream education, often it is informal and inadequately reported, without...

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