ENHANCING LIFELONG LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES THROUGH UNIVERSITY-INDUSTRY COOPERATION
Warsaw University of Technology (POLAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Conference name: 7th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 17-19 November, 2014
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:Following the political transformations of 1989, the number of students in Poland has increased significantly – the participation rate exceeds now 50%. Little progress, however, has been made in implementing the concept of university-level lifelong learning (LLL). The percentage of students aged 30+ in Poland is twice lower than the EU average.
Therefore, an expansion of the LLL system is seen as one of the most important objectives for the Polish higher education. To support developments in this area, special amendments to the Law on Higher Education, aimed at widening access to higher education for adults and shorten time to degree, were adopted by the Parliament on 11 July 2014. The new regulations allow for special, highly individualised study programmes, preceded by the recognition of prior non-formal and informal learning.
Also, higher education institutions, facing an unfavourable demographic trend (in coming years, the number of people in the 19-24 age group will decrease sharply - more than in any other EU country) are making every effort to attract adults by extending their LLL offerings.
At the Warsaw University of Technology (WUT), recent developments in LLL are carried out within the project “Higher education institutions as LLL integrators”, run by the Educational Research Institute. As the title of the project indicates, the idea is to implement the concept of so-called “LLL integrator”, i.e. to develop LLL services that would support integrating (formal) qualifications, competences and experiences of a prospective student (LL-learner) with the WUT educational offerings, so that to provide him/her with an individualised learning path that best suits his/her educational objectives.
One of the key assumptions underlying these developments is to exploit, as much as possible, WUT’s specific strengths and favourable, unique circumstances and opportunities related to the university-industry cooperation. These include:
a) high prestige among employers (WUT is consistently ranked as the best Polish higher education institution in surveys on employers’ satisfaction with graduates’ competences),
b) excellent relations with professionally successful alumni,
c) good experiences with joint WUT-business activities, such as dedicated post-graduate non-degree programmes, short courses and other initiatives (CISCO Academy, IBM Academy, etc.).
A dedicated organisational unit responsible for supporting the education process with data and analyses, regularly carries out surveys to collect data and opinions on desirable directions of evolution of the LLL offerings, recommended by representatives of industrial companies and other institutions that employ our graduates.
Based on collected data and opinions, taking advantage of excellent relations with external stakeholders, the LLL services are continuously extended by:
a) extension and diversification of the portfolio of educational offerings available to potential LL-learners to include, inter alia, new non-degree postgraduate programmes (2-3 semester programmes) and short programmes on “hot topics” developed in close cooperation with representatives of companies and professional societies (quite active in many fields of engineering),
b) joint WUT-industry initiatives, such as jointly designed and taught short programmes,
c) increasing the participation of active engineering practitioners in teaching.
Examples of such initiatives will be given in the paper.
Keywords: Life-long learning, university-industry cooperation.