“It wasn’t the Wilt experience” (at least for some): vocational students’ historical experiences of liberal studies

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This paper focuses on the historical experiences of a set of former vocational students, all of whom undertook a course of liberal studies whilst attending an English college of further education at some point between the mid-1960s and the late-1980s. It is set against the backdrop of Tom Sharpe’s novel, Wilt, which both lampooned the antics of the beleaguered liberal studies teacher, Henry Wilt, and presented vocational students (and lecturers) as narrow-minded, unruly and inherently hostile to academic learning. The data presented here, taken from a programme of narrative research with participants, many of whom eventually went on to teach in vocational further and higher education themselves, go some way towards challenging such stereotypes. Whilst it is evident that their experiences were varied and uneven, most participants remembered liberal studies as fairly relaxed and student-centred, and the majority were positive about their experiences of liberal studies, particularly in retrospect.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-109
Number of pages19
JournalResearch in Post-Compulsory Education
Issue number1
Early online date21 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Mar 2020


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