The Guardian homeDavid Willetts's suggestion (People over 60 should go back to higher education, 21 February) identifies only one function of education: preparing people for entering or remaining in employment. The weaknesses of his proposal are exposed by Michele Hanson (New tricks, 23 February). But his reductionist proposal also ignores that at its best education is concerned with promoting an open and critical mind, contributing to personal, intellectual and cultural development and to the potential role we can play as citizens. For many years, open-entry education for people of all ages and backgrounds was an important provision of universities, made under various guises, namely extramural education, adult education, continuing education and lifelong learning. Courses attended by students of mixed social and formal educational backgrounds addressed two kinds of educational disadvantage: vertical disadvantage, which faces those who have not had the benefits of higher education; and horizontal disadvantage, where graduates lack knowledge of a particular field because of earlier specialisation. Read more...