New academic support team for joint Federal and Länder initiative “Open Universities” gets to work
CHE belongs to a consortium that has been commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to support higher education projects in the whole of Germany in their endeavours to create more permeability between vocational education and higher education. The FernUniversität in Hagen has primary responsibility for the project. Other partners include the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg and TU Dortmund University. The new academic support team, initially engaged until summer 2019, commenced work with an introductory workshop.
The four participating institutions will provide scientifically sound advice to the 73 lifelong learning projects funded under the joint Federal and Länder competition “Advancement through Education: Open Universities” over the next three years. They will also share the application-oriented expertise they have gained in the course of their own research. This expertise mainly concerns dealing with heterogeneous target groups of students, establishing executive degree programmes, study modules and supportive offerings and, finally, creating structures to ensure that the services developed continue to be implemented beyond the end of the pilot phase. In addition, the academic support team will observe and explore from various perspectives the national and international developments of lifelong learning at HEIs. The findings of the analysis will be integrated into the projects.
The work of the academic support team will also involve identifying the challenges and barriers as well as the opportunities and potentials offered by the schemes and formats developed at the participating HEIs. This will yield proposals on how to sustainably implement lifelong learning at universities at the higher education policy, organisational and university teaching level.
The work of the academic support team focuses on the following tasks:
• Providing academic advice and support to the projects funded by the competition and ensuring information is exchanged with and between the projects;
• Conducting its own accompanying research on issues of relevance to the projects and
• Preparing the findings for the projects funded by the competition, other relevant stakeholders and interested experts.
The findings and experiences gained should play a major role in helping HEIs to create distinct profiles on their path towards becoming institutions of lifelong learning beyond the end of the competition – and hence in further developing the German higher education system.
Participants in the kick-off meeting from FernUniversität Hagen, CHE, TU Dortmund University and the University of Oldenburg (photo: Anja Wetter)
The academic support team combines research into education and higher education, and has considerable expertise in providing practical advice to HEIs and their members. In addition to having years of experience in working with new target groups of HEIs, the participating institutions have international contacts, which will help incorporate the competition into education policy.
The academic support also covers the thematic spectrum of vocational education. This way, vocational education and continuing higher education are brought closer together, because these aspects are interlinked in many of the supported projects. All of the projects financed within the first and second rounds of the competition will therefore benefit from the experience gained by the academic support team in dealing with the group of students with vocational qualifications, based on the respective research projects.
The newly commissioned team led by Professor Dr. Ada Pellert, Professor Dr. Uwe Elsholz and Dr. Eva Cendon (all from FernUniversität) will follow on the work already performed by the previous academic support team (which comprised the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and DUW Institute for Professional Studies up to the end of 2015). Dr. Sigrun Nickel (CHE) and her team will mainly be responsible for the topic “heterogeneity of new target groups” and for monitoring the university projects that have received funding. Professor Dr. Uwe Wilkesmann’s team (TU Dortmund University, Director of the Center for Higher Education) will mainly provide academic expertise on the governance of university teaching, HEIs as organisations, and continuing education management. The team from the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, represented by Dr. Annika Maschwitz and Professor Dr. Karsten Speck, will support the activities of the Open Universities network and focus on the sustainability and transfer of the project findings. Thanks to this constellation of partners and the partial continuity of the previous academic support team, the projects that gained funding will continue to receive the best possible support and accompaniment.
The Federal and Länder governments launched the “Advancement through Education” qualification initiative in 2008 in a bid to increase the educational opportunities of all citizens. The Federal and Länder competition “Advancement through Education: Open Universities”, running from 2011 to 2020, is an element of this initiative. The aim of this competition is to support schemes for executive study and lifelong university learning, particularly for professionals, individuals with family responsibilities, and those returning to the labour market. The competition also seeks to achieve a tighter interlinking of vocational education and higher education, and to ensure the speedy integration of new knowledge into practice. This intention is to be promoted by the appropriate methodological/didactical design of innovative course offerings involving the use of modern media concepts and the relevant organisation of time.