Ransackers Project – early findings

Nick Foxell

As part of our new project, Learn and Live Long, funded by an Awards for All lottery grant, I have begun to explore the learning opportunities available toolder people with the aim of creating a user-friendly database that will help people identify courses that are suited to their own interests, ambitions, levels of commitment and varying stages of life. 

What has been apparent from the start, is that the world of lifelong learning has changed dramatically since I visited Northern College in 2013 for Ransackers Association to make a short film about a group of older learners celebrating their experience of residential courses. 

There are now just two residential colleges left and the provision of classroom-based adult education by local councils and FE Colleges has been swallowed up by the Adult Community Learning initiative which has seen the offering to students shrunk to vocational and skills-based criteria with identical menus across the country of ESOL and Maths and work-based technical skills. Nonetheless, I shall do my utmost to uncover community-based, face-to-face classes that offer older people the chance to share their learning experience with their peers.  

To a large extent, driven by increased accessibility and the relentless advance of technology, and more recently, of course, by the constraints of Covid, wider learning resources have retreated online. This has facilitated a profusion of opportunities and a multiplicity of courses for anyone with an internet connection. Whether you want to study American Studies at Yale or Art History at the Open University the world is literally at your keyboard. 

Online courses range from tutor-led interactive lessons to self-guided (and self-paced) learning. From one-off lectures and short courses to A levels, degrees and PHDs. Subjects from Architecture to Zoology. Course fees vary widely from free to exorbitant. Qualifications and accreditations also fall into a wide range of outcomes. However, navigating this vast mass of resources can be daunting, so my hope is that my research will result in a workable guide that will enhance access to, and promote the benefits of, lifelong learning.  

Please get in touch if you have had an educational adventure in later life that you would like to share, or if you can recommend a course provider. We welcome your insights.

Ransackers “Learn and Live Long” Project Launch

Lottery Community Fund logo
This project is funded by the ‘Awards for All’ Lottery Grant

Investigating older people’s learning opportunities

The aim of this project, which starts in September, is to explore the learning opportunities and experiences of older people and retirees. This will initially focus on subjects taught and facilitated by experts, at colleges and other organisations, and will identify taught courses that are available for free, or at a reduced fee for older people.

We also plan to tell the stories of older people who have done either face to face or online courses, and how they adjusted to the learning process. Looking at how they benefitted in wellbeing, confidence, channelling creative skills, and by just indulging their curiosity.

This will undoubtedly touch on digital inclusion, volunteering, boosting one’s brain power, and other tropics that interest Ransackers Association. If you are an older person and have recently undertaken a course of study, either with or without a qualification at the end, we would like to hear from you.

Recruitment
We are looking for two people to work with us on a freelance contract basis, starting November 2021. For detailed information about these roles, please see the RA lottery roles document.

Please use our Contact Us page to get in touch.

Research group Penzance

Helen Davies

I did Ransackers in 2008 and 2009. I was inspired by Kathleen Hughes to set up a U3A Research group in Penzance and below are some of the group’s research findings.


Llyn Aubrey

I became interested in u3a as there was very little to engage me in Penzance. I’ve been delighted to see it grow and become a very worthwhile organisation. Joining the research group was a big interest of mine having made films in the local area; two of which were broadcast on C4. I have also been a representative for Cornwall at the then called International Film and TV organisation. This festival goes around Scotland, Wales, Eire, N. Ireland and Brittany, showing films that represent local talent and interest. It is something that I am no longer involved with but researching ideas is something I am keen on.

Helen had been involved in fabulous research, having had a grant to do so, and very involved in her local community.

I really like the idea of the owner of a local house and gardens being originally a slave owner, back in the 1700. Very fascinating, as that is very unusual in this local area which at one time was very fabulously rich, on the backs of mining. In fact, the richest place in the UK in the mid 1800.

This area has a fascinating history, a very good private library, which has numerous books on local knowledge and is an area very renowned for its art. I feel the group is very talented and keen to press forward with its ideas, the meetings are very lively!

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