Work for the department
Philip Healy, much beloved Director of Public Programmes, retired in August after a decade in post.
Prior to joining us his career included school teaching, lecturing in Japan and university administration (twelve years at Westminster College, Oxford, as Director of Academic & External Affairs and Clerk to the Governors). Philip's academic background is in English Language & Literature, with postgraduate work on Cardinal Newman and Lord Byron.
We asked Philip to reflect on his ten years here in the Department - his goals on joining us, the challenges he faced during his tenure, and the road ahead for continuing education.
'I have been influenced throughout my career by Newman's high vision of the University - that it is a place where we learn to think. I've always tried to keep Newman's vision in mind as an administrator and have tried to create the environment in which this type of education could take place.
'Often my contribution has been at some distance from the classroom: meeting requirements set by government bodies, finding ways to extend educational opportunity, and trying to find a balance between dwindling government funding and course fees. All of this 'administration' was in the cause of learning for its own sake and to develop the power to think in students.
'Universities are very special places, and I believe that they have a role in society which is broader than the education of young undergraduates and being places where research is undertaken. I see them as having a vital role in keeping democracy up to the mark.
'Political, social, economic, cultural, scientific, ethical, philosophical, theological issues confront each of us daily. Universities exist to research and consider these issues; I believe that the citizen is entitled to look to the university to help in his or her own intellectual journey through life. Departments for Continuing Education are particularly well suited to providing the best location in the university for adults to be able to do this.
'The loss of core public funding for much of continuing education in the past ten years has been the most striking (and alarming) change I have seen. Many universities have simply walked away from continuing education or restricted it to vocational and professional development programmes. I hope Oxford will keep faith with the mission of liberal adult education, particularly as it was a pioneer in its early development. One real danger is that university continuing education will be priced out of the reach of many who should have access to it - those on low incomes, on benefits and on modest pensions.
'One encouraging development over the past decade has been the role of IT in extending the geographical reach of OUDCE. We can now offer weekly class courses online to the world, in addition to the good people of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.
'I believe the demand for liberal adult education will not disappear; with an ageing society it may very well increase. The challenge is to fund the provision.
'I was delighted when Professor Michie asked me to continue as Chairman of the Friends of Oxford Lifelong Learning in my retirement. The Friends support the work of the Department - morally as well as financially. Currently there are some 220 Friends, whose subscriptions and donations enable us to provide student bursaries and gifts to the Library every year. I intend to keep in touch with the life and work of the Department through the Friends' wonderful social and academic programme.