Nancy C. Sprotte, Indianapolis, Indiana - 1995
Global Issues in Higher Education and Lifelong Learning
Nancy C. Sprotte, President
1995 AACRAO Annual Meeting
This year, I had the opportunity to represent AACRAO at
three international conferences. Our association has enjoyed a
long-standing exchange relationship with the Association of University
Administrators (AUA) in the United Kingdom. This year, we initiated an
exchange program with the European Association for International
Education (EAIE). Because of the timing of the conferences last fall, I
was also able to participate in the First Global Conference on Lifelong
Learning, where AACRAO was one of the sponsors. International education
issues and those of distance and lifelong learning are strategies
identified for two of the Goals contained in AACRAO's Strategic Plan.
I would like to share with you some of the impressions I
gathered from those conferences. I'm not sure that I would categorize
them as 'universal themes' or common problems we are all facing, but I
did find some similarities between discussions at those conferences and
many of the issues we have been discussing this week. Through continued
discussions and cooperative efforts, I hope that we can learn from each
other's experiences and develop the best solutions possible.
At the EAIE and AUA conferences, many sessions discussed
quality assurance, both in academic programs and student services
areas. This continues to be an important function throughout Europe, and
there are a number of agencies involved in assessment processes. On the
other hand, our plenary speaker at the AUA conference in Bristol
predicted that the United Kingdom would move more toward an
accreditation model than governmental quality assessment. Of course, he
had just admitted to having missed on several of his predictions of ten
years ago about where they would be today.
Student mobility and exchange programs continue to be
encouraged within the European community. We should encourage our own
students and campuses to become involved in these activities. It is a
wonderfully enriching experience that will become increasingly valuable
as the world continues to shrink for the next generation. It is
important for us to understand the educational systems of the rest of
the world, and to spend time explaining ours to them. Without an
understanding of each other's systems, it will be difficult to
appropriately place students as they move between countries and
institutions. This will continue to be an activity that AACRAO considers
an important part of our strategic plan.
There have been a number of changes in the educational
system of Great Britain, and more are predicted. Three years ago their
universities and polytechnic institutions merged, and there was an
effort to greatly expand access to higher education. The UK believes a
highly educated population is important for it's continued growth and
development the in the global community. This rapid expansion resulted
in a number of challenges that sounded very familiar. The government has
experienced difficulty in funding the tremendous growth that occurred,
and they've had to reduce the rate of increase; they are also discussing
the possibility of means testing for full-time enrollment fees. In the
future, they may look at mergers, amalgamations and alliances to reduce
unnecessary redundancy in academic programs. Our plenary speaker
suggested that technology rather than policies will drive change in the
future, and that may have serious impact on some subjects; he asked the
question- how much of teaching is information delivery vs. human
At the Lifelong Learning conference, I heard some of
these same issues raised. There were discussions about the many
activities that are happening around the globe, for that conference was
attended by 500 people from 50 countries. According to UNESCO, Lifelong
Learning is central to development; it is critical for us:
- to reach the un-reached; and
- to include the excluded
The European Community is actively promoting 'Socrates,' a
student exchange program. They are also introducing 'Leonardo,' a
vocational exchange program.
In the Netherlands, Lifelong Learning is critical to
Their unions have negotiated the right for workers to go
university with a paid day off, for 5 days a year. This
agreement was made in exchange for decreases in wages. In fact, some
employers even pay the cost of education. There is a similar agreement
in Sao Paolo, Brazil, which gives workers 2 weeks.
Many of the plenary sessions discussed 'learning
societies' and possible roles for organizations, business, individuals,
technology and resources, in promoting the 'learning society.' Following
a great deal of discussion, the higher education group began to
separate some of the issues, as they tried to consider the role of
higher education in Lifelong Learning.
- Learning and "certification" of learning may be separate issues. Learning is attached to the person, not to the institution.
- There needs to be a shift in emphasis from teaching to learning.
- When discussing learning, we should consider different aspects of the issue:
- forms of learning
- assessment of learning
- documentation of learning
- We must redefine the role of the university in
lifelong learning, both formal and informal learning. Within Higher
education, we should use our capacity to change cultural attitudes for
learning so that Lifelong Learning becomes the norm.
- Are we really looking at a situation of competition
for students or excess demand? We must beware of the "Not invented here"
- Quality of material and of students may be different as we consider different aspects of lifelong learning.
A number of principles seemed to emerge in the discussion:
- there are two audiences - young and adult
- we must deregulate time-cycle models of education
- partnerships should be explored as much as possible - public, private, and individual partnerships
- we must engage in a permanent search for a new production function for learning/teaching
The conference strand for those of us in higher
education developed a summary report, following a number of plenary
speakers and several roundtable discussions:
- Higher Education is not context-free, and there is no
one model to look to. The country, circumstances, and stages of
development are all different; there are formal and informal systems for
teaching and learning; and there are social, economic and political
differences. The conclusion of the group is that those of us in higher
education are facilitators of learning, not the sole dispensers of
- Do others' experiences suit our cases? We should
compare experiences, adopt successful approaches and develop cooperative
programs where appropriate. As an example, school-to-work transition
programs don't work where there is high, structural unemployment, so
such models may not be totally transferable.
- Access to learning is socially, economically, and
politically mediated. This may affect how programs are developed and
delivered. For example, how will teaching- the imparting knowledge or
information- be delivered in a society where currently there is a high
degree of control over information?
- What strategy should we use to stimulate demand? What is the place of the collectivity in Lifelong Learning?
- How should Lifelong Learning be funded? What is the basic social ethic behind the services we are offering?
- Increasingly, there is an international dimension to Lifelong Learning-
- Are learning systems transcending national borders?
- Intellectual copyright and tariff issues must be addressed.
In the global context, an African delegate raised the
question of equity - will technology separate the have's from the have
not's? He called on us to consider diversity and access issues as we
seek solutions. While this is a critical question for developing
countries, it is also something that we must consider within our own
country, as we reach out to potential students who traditionally have
been underrepresented in higher education.
There are many challenges facing higher education, no
matter what country you are in or what conference you are attending.
Each of us has something to contribute toward meeting them. AACRAO has
come a long way in the years I have been involved with it. Our
Association will continue to provide leadership in these and many other
areas; that will help us to better serve our institutions and our
students as we become active partners in the global community, as well
as the work we have to do here at home. I encourage each one of you to
become actively involved in this Association and the fine work it does.