Lifelong learning International Bologna Seminar, Great Missenden, 14 May 2009 Graeme Roberts, UK Bologna Expert
Lifelong learning • Learning is not just something that happens in a classroom to young people between the ages of 5 and 25, but an activity people of all ages and backgrounds engage in for a variety of reasons at different levels and for different lengths of time throughout their lives in a range of formal and informal settings, including those provided by voluntary activities, community groups and the workplace. • “Faced with the challenge of an aging population, Europe can only succeed [in realising “a Europe of knowledge that is highly creative and innovative“] if it maximises the talents and capacities of all its citizens and fully engages in lifelong learning as well as in widening participation in higher education.” (Leuven Communiqué) • Equity demands that “the student body within higher education should reflect the diversity of Europe’s populations.”
Implications for European HEIs • Less than 2% of European HE entrants are over 25 (Eurostat/Eurostudent). • HEIs must take deliberate steps to widen the pool of those who access and participate in HE to include a range of “non-traditional” learners: • under-represented ethnic or socio-economic groups ; • adult learners who did not go on to HE after secondary school or who dropped out without a qualification and are seeking a second chance; • those already in employment who need to update their knowledge and skills to advance their careers; • those out of work who need to acquire new skills in order to re-enter the labour market; • those in retirement who want to keep mentally active and productive.
The challenge Providing educational opportunities for such a diverse range of learners and their needs: • access courses which enable those without standard qualifications to enrol in a bachelor’s programme; • articulation arrangements which allow those with a relevant further education qualification to complete a bachelor’s award without having to start again at the beginning; • work-related or work-based learning programmes, designed and often delivered in collaboration with employers; • masters programmes which enable those in mid-career to enhance or update their employability-related knowledge and skills; • various kinds of shorter CPD courses.
Flexible learning paths • Meeting the needs of lifelong learners involves creating and promoting flexible and transparent learning paths which allow the same qualification to be obtained by means of different routes. • This means: • expanding the opportunities for part-time study or distance learning; • modularising study programmes; • implementing ECTS as a credit accumulation system (inc. short courses); • providing intermediate entry and exit points; • using digital technology to support learning at times convenient to students in full-time work or with family responsibilities; • promoting and supporting the recognition of prior learning; • providing high quality information and advice about how those who are unfamiliar with the world of HE can access and acquire the learning they seek, so they can make informed choices about what and how to study.
National qualifications frameworks • Developing and implementing national qualifications frameworks that set out the generic learning outcomes and volumes of credit associated with different levels of award and map the relationship between awards is an essential step in promoting lifelong learning. • “Qualifications frameworks make sense not because they are attractive theoretical structures but because they help learners find diverse pathways to the kind of competences our societies need.” (Sjur Bergan) • Ideally, these will be a lifelong learning frameworks that show the relationships (and potential pathways) between HE awards and those available through further or vocational education.
Lifelong Learning Coordination Group • “Considerable progress has been made towards increasing the understanding of lifelong learning in a higher education context over the last two years. Much, however, remains to be done, before lifelong learning becomes fully integrated within all higher education systems across the EHEA.” • “In particular, significant effort is required to enhance the development and application of the recognition of prior learning.” (Final Report to Bologna Follow-Up Group)
2009 Stocktaking Report • Only 19 countries had nationally established procedures, guidelines or policy for assessment and recognition of prior learning as a basis for access to HE programmes and the allocation of credits towards a qualification and/or exemption from some programme requirements, and demonstrably applied these procedures in practice. • In most countries “there is little or no recognition of learning undertaken outside the formal education system.” • Lack of understanding of the concept of RPL. • Even where RPL systems are in place, lack of awareness that individuals can have their previous learning assessed and recognised.
Copenhagen Process (VET) • Too little cross-over with Bologna. • Priority given to promoting the validation of non-formal and informal learning to support career development and lifelong learning. • Common European principles (2004): to ensure greater compatibility between approaches in different countries and at different levels. • European guidelines (2008): identify good practice.
Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) • Recognising the outcomes of learning acquired through previous life or work experiences in non-formal or informal contexts that have not previously been assessed or credit-rated. • Formative – for personal/career development; or • Summative – to gain entry to or credit within a formal programme of study. • Learner: • describes and reflects on experiences, • identifies learning associated with them, • defines this in terms of knowledge, understanding and skills, and • provides evidence of the learning acquired. • Learning provider: • offers initial information and advice, • assists process of description, reflection, identification, selection and presentation of evidence, • establishes level of learning by mapping it on to national qualifications framework, • assesses evidence of learning for specific credit-rating for entry to and/or the award of credit within a particular programme of study.
RPL: a learner-centred process • Evidence of prior experiential learning is particular to the individual concerned and can take a multiplicity of forms. • Assessment for recognition is usually more individualised and time-consuming than more standardised forms. • Because RPL requires individualised treatment, do its costs outweigh its benefits in a mass HE system? • RPL remains a key route for adult learners wishing to enter or re-enter higher education. • RPL requires to be integrated into national and institutional lifelong learning strategies. • “It is essential for universities to develop systems to assess and recognise all forms of prior learning” (EUA Charter on Lifelong Learning).
Bologna seminar on RPL in higher education (Amsterdam, 2008) • Raised issue of developing common European principles and guidelines for RPL in HE, along the lines of those developed by the Copenhagen Process. • Idea supported by the European Students Union and EURASHE. • Potential benefits of a common reference point include assuring the quality of HE qualifications obtained via this route and aiding their international recognition. http://www.dashe.nl/events/bologna/rpl.html
Student mobility • Students from traditionally under-represented socio-economic groups are less likely to take part in mobility schemes, such as Erasmus: • “In most countries students from highly educated family backgrounds are more likely to have experienced a study-related stay abroad; this share was sometimes more than three times higher than from students from families with a low educational background” (Eurostat/Eurostudent report). • Financial constraints are cited by such students as one of the most important obstacles in planning a study-related stay abroad, and the benefits of mobility are not immediately evident. • “Without targeted help, mobility risks to be the preserve of elites” (High Level Expert Forum on Mobility). • Adult learners are also less likely to take part in mobility schemes for personal or family reasons or because they are combining work and part-time study. • So we need to think of ways to provide and promote a variety of mobility options and support packages tailored to the needs and circumstances of the whole range of lifelong learners: e.g. short study visits, summer schools, work placements, ear-marked funds and other incentives.
Final challenge • “Make lifelong learning a genuine reality for all citizens in the EHEA, by encouraging higher education to fulfil its public responsibility in enabling learners of all ages to participate in relevant programmes, enhancing the use of flexible learning paths and facilitating recognition of prior learning.” (2009 Stocktaking Report) • How can we, as Bologna Experts, best contribute to the achievement of this aim?