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UALL 2018 Annual Conference: Opportunities for Lifelong Learning in a Changing World RECAP

Tuesday, May 15, 2018   (0 Comments)
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Since its foundation in 1947, The Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL) Annual Conference had been the main event of UALL’s year. It provides our members the opportunity to debate on policy, practice and research but it has evolved over the years discussing a wide range of subjects from professional training and vocational education to more traditional public programmes, and from classroom teaching to online and distance provision. Similarly, the delegates attending the annual conference have become much more diverse, representing the full breadth of lifelong learning in higher education.

This year the Annual Conference was held at Downing College, Cambridge, over 3 days from 21st to  23rd March – with an informal start on the Wednesday afternoon at which delegates could meet for networking and interest group meetings, including an always-popular seminar for new researchers entitled Writing up your Research for Publication. That evening there was an informal buffet in which delegates, especially international visitors, were welcomed, and Conference regulars had the opportunity for catching up with old friends and colleagues.

This year the theme of the Conference was Opportunities for Lifelong Learning in a Changing World. In recent years, the UK has seen dramatic changes in our field. Part-Time study has been severely damaged by the Government’s introduction of higher fees with enrolments by adult learners reduced by almost 50% in the last five years and widening access to higher education for non-traditional students a significant and sometimes controversial policy area. UALL is very active in promoting recognition of the issues facing lifelong learning students at both policy and provider level. Therefore, we were extremely fortunate that following the formal opening of the Conference on the Thursday morning by the UALL Chair, the Reverend Canon Professor Peter Neil and a welcome to the University by Pro-Vice Chancellor Graham Virgo, the opening keynote speaker was Nicola Dandridge CBE, Chief Executive of the Government Office for Students (OfS). This organisation replaced the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and merged with the Office for Fair Access to create a new structure for higher education and wider access, in which the funding is student-based rather than institutional.

This has significant strategic implications for lifelong learning and we were fortunate that the timing of this keynote coincided with this major new development. The speaker addressed the Conference theme of Opportunities for Lifelong Learning in a Changing World and outlined the future role of the new OfS in providing for the non-traditional learner. The ensuing discussion was a valuable opportunity for delegates to contribute to this development.

The Conference has developed a reputation for being a platform for the presentation of innovative practice and research, and so the main body of the Conference takes the form of ‘workshop’ presentations and subsequent discussions. We received a high number of papers, and in order to accommodate 40 presentations, they were grouped in three or sometimes four per session in parallel breakout rooms. They addressed practice and research from across the UK and from the wider world including Europe and North America. The encouraging number of international presentations reflects the increasing engagement of UALL with the global lifelong learning community.

The papers this year displayed a remarkable spread of approaches to the Conference theme, some analysing social and economic change and their impact on providers and students, others focusing on citizenship, public engagement and the concept of the ‘learning city’. Presentations on vocational learning addressed the current initiatives in the UK for degree apprenticeships, professional practice in changing economic conditions, business enterprise and the empowerment of employees, and the use of creative fiction in management training.

At each Annual Conference UALL invites the host university to showcase current projects on the Conference theme. This year Cambridge colleagues presented their project on prison education, in which both inmates and university students are co-learners in a learning community: a most impressive and successful initiative.

For more information regarding this innovative project please follow the link.

Every year we hold a formal Drinks Reception and Dinner on the Thursday evening of the Conference. At the drinks reception we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first university adult education programme in England by James Stuart of Trinity College, Cambridge. The Conference Dinner was held in the Great Hall of Downing College, a most imposing venue.

After the Dinner there is the traditional Awards ceremony. The awards celebrate the achievements of projects and providers with categories of innovation, sustainability, research and international projects, and are much valued by the winners. After the Awards ceremony, we had a presentation to our previous administrator Lucy Bate, in which UALL celebrated and awarded her for her dedication and hard work over the years.

Friday was dedicated to our international partners. The keynote speaker was Sten Tiedemann, Rector Folkeuniversitet Aarhus, Herning & Emdrup (Copenhagen). He gave a valuable insight into the state of higher education and lifelong learning in Denmark and the remarkable success of his institution in the face of changing times and cutbacks. This was then followed by the international panel. Panel members were: Professor Anne Ryan, Maynooth University, Ireland, Professor Eser Sozmen from the Turkish Universities Continuing Education Network (TUSEM), Dr Gary Hepburn, President of the Canadian Association for University Continuing Education (CAUCE), Professor Jonathan Taylor, President of the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), Konca Yumlu, Centre of Women’s Studies, Ege University, Turkey. This session was completed by the signing of Memoranda of Understanding to confirm the affiliation of UALL and international associations, including AAACE.

Every year we astound ourselves with how much we are able to pack in into two days. Delegates left for home after lunch on the Friday – some by way of a conducted tour of Cambridge and tea at Madingley Hall – the home of the University’s Institute for Continuing Education.  Warm thanks are due to the Institute and to Downing College for hosting the Conference.

Onto next year!
Lifelong Learning and Innovation

Telford Innovation Campus 10-12th April 2019

Telford is linked with the Irongorge Bridge, the symbol of the Industrial Revolution. It is still renowned for its innovation with its gleaming buildings and hi tech businesses marking it out as a town for the future, and the campus being the home of a Formula 3 racing team.

The Telford campus is a perfect location for UALL 2019 and a celebration of Lifelong Learning and Innovation.  With direct transport links to Manchester Airport, Birmingham International Airport, motorway links and national rail connections. This picturesque setting is well connected with the outside world.

Updates will be made via our website and our twitter @UALL_UK.

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