Presentation on theme: "Developing Lifelong Learning in Canadian Universities Tom Nesbit."— Presentation transcript:
Developing Lifelong Learning in Canadian Universities Tom Nesbit
Outline Some facts about Canada and Canadian higher education Factors affecting Canadian universities Research questions Results Implications Discussion
Canada 2nd largest country in the world (10million km 2 ) 35million people, most living within 200km of the Southern border Broad cultural diversity Sizeable aboriginal population (5%) Two official languages Federal political structure: 10 provinces & 3 territories Higher education a provincial responsibility
Canadas University System 80 universities (75 public) - 10 large (research-intensive + medical/doctoral) - 15 medium-sized (comprehensive) - 45 small (primarily undergraduate) Participation (credit) 1million students (2/3 full-time; 1/3 part-time) Non-credit participation unknown ( 400,000/year)
Factors Affecting Canadian Universities Facing a period of consolidation rather than growth Declining governmental fiscal support caused by slow economic growth/focus on deficit reduction Little anticipated growth in 18-24 year old population Caps on enrollment growth, tuition and debt Inflation and deferred maintenance costs Challenges from other types of institutions
Other Influences Pressure to attract greater diversity of students - especially adult, aboriginal and international Increased business involvement/corporatisation Technological developments Enhanced public interest & awareness Concerns over fiscal and organisational accountability
So? Universities will need to refocus their efforts to: accommodate changing student demographics prepare students as engaged citizens and for new kinds of work better demonstrate the value of university education be more responsive to students needs and concerns
Which means paying more attention to: Civic engagement & community outreach Social exclusion Cultural renewal Advancing citizenship, participation and social justice Becoming more learner-oriented Lifelong Learning
Research Questions What are the key aspects of Lifelong Learning in Canadian universities? What is enabling or constraining its development? How are Continuing Education units altering their work and approaches to accommodate changing contexts?
Data Sources Preliminary stage of research University websites and mission statements Pilot study in British Columbia Informal interviews with several Deans/Directors at Western Canadian Universities Comprehensive survey of all Canadian universities More structured interviews
Results Just over half (50/80) universities claim a separate unit and/or to offer some form of lifelong learning Although present in university mission statements, lifelong learning has an uncertain role and location Viewed as an area of innovation and experimentation AND profit-generation University policies and procedures discourage or provide barriers for lifelong learners
A Typical Mission Statement The University [of Toronto] wishes to encourage learning as a life-long activity, and is committed to: Providing to persons in professional practice and to members of the community at large opportunities to study and to use its facilities Helping other institutions, professional organizations and learned societies through the provision of facilities and expertise.
Lifelong Learning Generally used to refer to the broad set of beliefs, aims, and strategies centred on the tenet that learning opportunities should be accessible to all, regardless of age and status. No agreed-upon definition/ambiguous and contested concept Synonymous with University Extension or Continuing Education for personal or professional enhancement
What differentiates LL/UCE Usually part-time and non-credit Broadly available to most sectors of society Highly-flexible and responsive to learner demand Requires few if any prior credentials Generally multi- or inter-disciplinary Operates on an entrepreneurial and cost-recovery basis Specifically organised upon an understanding of and respect for adult learners' unique needs and challenges.
Factors affecting UCE Absence of a commonly-accepted definition of UCE and uncertainty over its roles, purposes and functions Dearth of clear policies about continuing education or any guidelines for its implementation Ambiguous location within conventional university systems and structures Organisational and governance issues Academic legitimacy and credibility
Limited funding and other resource allocation issues Competition between the historical social orientation and mandate and demand for more explicit business- and professional-orientated courses and programs Little research Inter-university collaborations and partnerships between UCE units and other social, business and cultural organisations.
Barriers for Adult Learners Cumbersome enrolment procedures Restrictions on entrance qualifications Inadequate guidance and support systems Rigid class and office scheduling The rise of online registration systems Slow acceptance of alternative prior learning assessment policies
Lack of access to a welcoming space appropriate to adult learners lives and approaches to learning Narrow and unimaginative approaches to teaching Course content that ignores learners experiences Uninformed or unsympathetic faculty and staff Fiscal requirements that limit the freedom to experiment.
What is to be Done? The point is not merely to understand the world, but to change it. (Karl Marx) Portray Continuing Educations units as the public face of the university Linking with like-minded groups Remember our history Periodic and honest self-examination Thinking educationally
Thinking Educationally Any successful educational endeavour has to start with peoples understandings of their own problems and where they want to get to. The most important single thing is to know what direction in which to move. Otherwise you go around in circles. (Myles Horton)
Implications for UCE units Nimble & responsive Competitive yet collaborative Cost efficient Institutionally central Progressive & imaginative Bridging boundaries Accountable
Maintain flexible systems and structures Keep up to date Connect internally and externally Measures of relevance and accountability Strengthen professional practice and academic awareness Develop research capacities