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The interface between academic knowledge and working knowledge

Implications for curriculum design and pedagogic practice

Author - Dr Anne Murphy


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Drivers of paradigmatic change in Irish higher education in relation to WBL

Contemporary drivers of structural and political change in higher education in Ireland, and in Europe generally, are identified as two-fold, as illustrated in Figure 1: firstly, the need to maintain and enhance economic progress through generation of new knowledge through research and the application of that new knowledge in the world of work, and secondly, the need to facilitate social stability and democratic cohesion. As a broadly publicly funded institution, higher education is expected, in such an open/neo-liberal model of the academy, to be responsive to the needs of the economy and of the labour market, while at the same time affording citizens their right to appropriate levels of education to sustain economies in stable societies. Thus the growing interest in the interface between traditional higher education and the world of work at OECD, EU and national levels manifest through the myriad of research project, incentives and initiatives which have a labour market focus.

Higher education is being increasingly pressurised to adapt its cultures, policies and practices to this agenda, and indeed the growing number of qualifications and credentials are testimony to the growing marketisation of education generally within a European Qualifications Framework characterised now by diminishing differentiation among higher education providers or among their awards (Barnett 1997, 1999; Boud and Solomon 2003; Delanty 2001; Fenwick 2002; Fisher 2005; Fulton and McHugh 1996; Gustavis and Clegg 2005; Mills 2001; O’Donoghue and Maguire 2005; Reeve and Gallacher 2005; Symes and McIntyre 2000; Wagner and Childs 2000).

Where individual academics position themselves with regard to these changes in the remit and function of higher education is a matter of some importance where the paradigm of work-based learning is concerned, since positionality will determine one’s philosophical, ethical and practice attitudes on many levels. There is no doubt that scholarly opinion is quite divided in this regard.

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