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The Role of Universities in Promoting and Providing Lifelong Learning – DUK’s Strategic Approach

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The fact that it is hard to imagine a time when a single university degree guaranteed a long and prosperous professional life, shows how quickly the education needs of workers are changing.

Against the background of changing technology and increasingly disrupted markets, today’s companies and their employees are under ever increasing pressure to update and improve the skills throughout the life of their career. With increasing global competition and rapidly changing job requirements, Lifelong learning (LLL)[1] is being widely acknowledged and accepted.

As higher education providers, universities are increasingly playing a key role in promoting and delivering LLL. Given the on-going process of globalisation, demographic shifts in many countries, and the rapid technological development, HEIs around the world face a strategic imperative to broaden access to LLL opportunities, ensuring that education and learning are fully available to a diverse student population. Despite this, there are very few HEIs committed to the development of postgraduate skills to the same degree as Danube University Krems (DUK).

Wide range of offerings

Founded in 1994 as a centre for continuing education in Austria, DUK now stands out with its pioneering LLL program portfolio among others in Europe. With more than 200 exclusive master’s programs, short programs and seminars offered to about 9,000 students from 90 countries, the university distinguishes itself as a specialised institution in the sector of LLL offering university-based advanced education.

At DUK, continuing education is not just a field of training but rather a core competence. The entire teaching structure is geared towards the particular standards and requirements of middle-aged professionals and executives guided by the experienced LLL specialists.

DUK students are individuals who have already completed an academic degree and/or have already gained a wealth of experience in their professional lives. They are professionals who want to expand and update their expertise and competences building upon the existing knowledge and experience.

What is the secret to this overwhelmingly high student numbers in the registered programs? The answer is simple. The teaching and learning methods as well as structures within the university are specifically designed to permit a maximum degree of flexibility via modularisation, block courses and blended learning. The study programmes at DUK can be offered in the blended or distance learning format.

Each module of the blended learning programme consists of three phases: the preparation phase before the module, the face-to-face courses at the campus, and a post-module phase; whereas distance learning programmes always remain flexible, so students can adapt them to their individual time resources and current location.

New frontiers

Teaching is definitely not the only direction DUK has taken: The institution puts increasingly more strategic efforts into transdisciplinary applied research in the field of LLL, to inform teaching and highlight the university’s commitment to knowledge and technology transfer. This wouldn’t be possible without close collaboration of DUK with diverse regional, national and international stakeholders, including businesses, which play a vital role in the provision of DUK´s LLL strategy. DUK’s business partners are not only directly participating in co-designing the curricula by informing and consulting university about their needs, but also ultimately advise DUK’s management through being an active part of the university’s board.

Want to learn more how DUK is strategically approaching lifelong learning? Read the detailed case study at: http://ub-cooperation.eu/index/casestudies  

 

[1] The principle of lifelong learning is understood as formal and informal learning opportunities driven by the learners motivation to learn that occurs during the whole course of a person’s life resulting in “economic, social or cultural outcomes; to personal development; to citizenship”. Examples include executive education, industry training, continuing education and professional and special-interest programmes.