Ghent University's strategic policy plan for lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is currently a top priority for our policy makers. In this fast-changing society, it is obviously important for everyone to keep renewing and expanding their skills. You don’t stop learning once you graduate – quite the opposite!

Ghent University is fully committed to the importance of lifelong learning and the role that the university should play in this, together with other partners and organisations. Ghent University wants lifelong learning to become an integral part of the university’s programme. The main focus is no longer just on initial education, but rather on the full learning path offered by Ghent University, so that all courses become an integral part of the lifelong learning programme.

Ghent University strives to support every individual who wants to keep learning and studying during their career, and hopes to encourage lifelong learning opportunities across the whole university.

Vision for lifelong learning at Ghent University:

As an academic provider, Ghent University seeks to take the latest innovations and developments in scientific research and apply these to society more broadly. To this end, the lifelong learning programme draws on top-level research and the most reliable research-based insights within each subject area.

Everyone – from alumni returning to the university for further training, to professionals who want to take their career to the next level through lifelong learning, working students, mature students, or simply those who are interested in developing their skills for whatever reason – can find state-of-the-art knowledge and training at Ghent University.

Ghent University’s vision is for lifelong learning courses to be recognised as an integral part of the university’s educational programme, rooted in the faculty structures that are fully embedded in the university and in academic research. The most important aim of the university-wide lifelong learning project is to ensure that faculties receive as much support as possible in their work, while working to minimise any obstacles and difficulties.

Strategic policy plan for lifelong learning

Building on Ghent University’s mission and vision for lifelong learning, a strategic policy plan has been developed and was presented to the Board of Governors.

The strategic policy plan outlines the following action points:

  • There is a clear framework for lifelong learning for initators and participants.

The processes around lifelong learning will be outlined in a new set of regulations that aim to be simple, clear and flexible. This new framework also provides transparent labels for the lifelong learning study programmes that are organised by Ghent University, and there are clear agreements about how these will be certified.

With an eye to developing a more streamlined approval procedure, all authority will be combined in one central body, the Commission for Lifelong learning. This commission will serve as the central body which from 2021-22 will be responsible for making all decisions about the lifelong learning programme, as well as ensuring quality assurance, and developing policy for lifelong learning.

The lifelong learning courses are mostly non-subsidised programmes, and must not in any way put pressure on the regular study programmes. For this reason, the policy is based on the premise that the whole process of implementing lifelong learning programmes must be self-financing. This means that all costs have to be covered in full, either by collecting tuition fees or through external funding.

  • Academies for lifelong learning will be established within the faculties.

Anchoring the academies within the faculties in this way represents an important step. These (inter)faculty academies serve as a catalyst for lifelong learning at Ghent University and are responsible for the organisation and implementation of the lifelong learning programmes.

In a number of faculties, this type of academy has already been in existence (some for a long time), while others have been established more recently. The academies that have already been established for a while at Ghent University are an invaluable resource thanks to the years of experience and expertise that they have acquired in the field of lifelong learning. The existing academies have already been hard at work for many years, and are experienced in bringing a range of high-quality programmes to the market, or fielding questions from the professional world, alongside the practical side of organising programmes. Their expertise will now serve as a model in order to develop new academies.

There are currently 10 academies for lifelong learning at Ghent University:

  • Lifelong learning is an integral aspect of the programmes offered by Ghent University.

The options for lifelong learning are being reorganised and will incorporate the full range of programmes on offer at Ghent University. The project is thus not merely limited to post-initial education including postgraduate programmes, permanent training, lectures or study days. Thanks to developments at both the Flemish and European levels, the options for lifelong learning can be extended to include micro-credentials. Micro-credentials make it possible to bring together teaching units that have similar content alongside part-time learning pathways from the bachelor or master programmes, under the umbrella of lifelong learning. Ghent University is fully committed to this approach. The range of programmes at Ghent University in any case includes relevant combinations of courses and units that can be offered and complemented with either broader or more specialised post-initial programmes, lectures, and study days.

  •  Partners from the world of work are also closely involved in developing the lifelong learning programmes.

It is important for the professional field to be actively involved when developing new lifelong learning programmes and updating the current programme through co-creation. Responding to the needs of the target public is the only way to develop lifelong learning in a sustainable way. It is important that new initiatives are aligned and linked to the expectations of the professional world. For this reason, external experts are systematically involved in the lifelong learning project. They bring in perspectives from the professional world to help and support the further development of lifelong learning at Ghent University.

  •  The quality of lifelong learning is also monitored.

Until now, when it came to lifelong learning there was little in the way of structured quality assurance. Through the new policy, Ghent University seeks to focus more on this aspect.

It will be implemented by means of a number of indicators focusing on performance including: the number of activities organised, the number of participants, their profiles and reason for registering, the number of sessions and hours...

Alongside these quantitative indicators naturally the programme’s quality will also be evaluated in terms of content and organisation, supplemented where necessary by participant evaluation, feedback from lecturers, and the achievement of pre-defined competences, the teaching and learning activities, and testing (constructive alignment).

For the development of the quality assurance framework, there is cooperation with the University of Antwerp and the VUB within the alliance Nova Academy.

  • Nova Academy

The University of Antwerp, Ghent University, and the VUB work together in the field of lifelong learning within Nova Academy. We are exploring all the possibilities of working together to offer a range of options for lifelong learning, paying attention to how programmes are spread throughout the regions and positioned within Flanders. 

Information about all lectures and study days, short- and long-term courses, micro-credentials and postgraduate programmes that are offered through the lifelong learning academies at Ghent University is available on the joint platform of Nova Academy. This platform makes it possible to search all options for lifelong learning offered by the three universities, and publicises all the programmes and events for the general public.

The collaborations with the University of Antwerp and VUB do not preclude collaborations with other institutions.