Leading academic change: Successful examples of how universities can respond to the demands of new educational policies and and to the growing demands for employees with higher education

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Recent social developments have increased the demand for a highly skilled workforce and thus for higher qualifications and education. Access to higher education must therefore be made more widely available and support structures need to be refined especially for those who have participated less in the past, e.g. adult learners, those from non-academic backgrounds and/or students in employment. At the same time, higher education institutions (HEIs) have to adapt to these new student groups, their needs and the new economic and political demands. To do this, universities need to respond with necessary structural changes in order to bring a strong focus on lifelong learning specific to the needs of today’s knowledge-based society.

To widen participation for traditionally excluded student groups, the European research project OPULL (Opening Universities for Lifelong Learning) aims to deduce success factors for HEIs opening up to non-traditional learners. The project, that runs from 2009 to 2013, is led by the Leuphana University Lüneburg in Germany in collaboration with universities in Denmark, Finland and the United Kingdom and is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). During the first phase, the project examined the educational systems of the four countries, possible access paths to HEIs and recognition of prior learning. The findings from this phase made it evident that there are various ways to react successfully to processes of change in European universities. Different dimensions of these processes are researched, describing the institutional structures, institutional variations, the paths of change, as well as costs and benefits, to answer the following research questions:
What are the drivers for HEIs to become open to non-traditional students? Who are the key stakeholders engaging in the transformation process? What does the path of institutional change look like? How prominent is the opening process within the institution? What are potential benefits and weaknesses of the opening process for students, universities and businesses? And what influences do the existing educational systems and economy have on the transformation process?

The presentation is intended to outline how HEIs can respond to continuous change within the European academic landscape by describing and comparing four case studies (University of Southern Denmark, Open University at the University of Helsinki, Leuphana University Lüneburg and Open University(UK)) and their reactions to contemporary change. The comparison focuses on the German case - the Leuphana University Lüneburg - as a reference point. It developed a four unit model in order to reorganise its structure according to European Union and national education policies. As a pioneer in academic quaternary education, Leuphana redesigned its institutional structure based on USA models. Currently the university comprises a House of Research, a College, a Graduate School and - still unique in German higher education - a Professional School for students in full-time employment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationICERI2012 Proceedings
EditorsL. Gomez Chova, A. Lopez Martinez, I. Candel Torres
Number of pages9
PublisherInternational Association of Technology, Education and Development (IATED)
Publication date19.11.2012
ISBN (Print)978-84-616-0763-1
ISBN (Electronic)978-84-616-0764-8
Publication statusPublished - 19.11.2012
Event5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation - ICERI 2012 - Madrid, Spain
Duration: 19.11.201221.11.2012
Conference number: 5