Continuing Education in Glasgow University: Overview and Key Facts
The unique value of a university lies in the academic expertise of its staff. Glasgow University has always regarded it as part of its function to find ways of making this expertise available very widely, not just to those studying on degree courses. There are many historical examples of activity of this sort, dating all the way back to the “Mechanics’ Lectures” included in the remit of the Professor of Natural Philosophy in the 18th century.
A growing commitment to such work during the 20th century took more and more formal expression within the University, leading to the formation of the Department of Extra-Mural Education in 1951. In 1985 the name of the Department changed to “Adult and Continuing Education”. “DACE” continued to function until 1 August 2010 when it was disbanded, along with all other departments, in a major restructure of Glasgow University internal structures. For now its work continues within the School of Education.
The Open Programe (OP) of “Courses for Adults” provides a very broad range of lifelong learning opportunities, drawing on core University topics, and starting from the principle that learning does not end at school or after graduation. The programme consists of 3 integrated elements: language courses; ACE (Award in Continuing Education) courses, short courses and day events without credit; and CertHE (Certificate in Higher Education) courses. Most of the courses have no entry qualifications, no formal examinations, and usually no requirement of previous subject knowledge although many do feature an assessment option which, if passed, awards credit towards an Award in Continuing Education.” ACE courses include the option to submit work for assessment to gain, typically, 4 ACE points. Students who acquire 40 ACE points gain the Award in Continuing Education.
Most ACE courses involve attending for two hours once a week for, usually, up to 10 weeks. Courses are offered not only on campus but throughout the West of Scotland. Some are tailored and delivered to meet the needs of community groups in areas of high unemployment. A feature of DACE is the added value brought to the work through collaborative partnerships with community groups.
CertHE courses involve more sustained study, throughout a full academic year, and the completion of assessed work to gain, in most cases, 20 points at University Level 1 (120 points representing the amount of credit gained by a full-time undergraduate in completing Level 1). A few courses involve different amounts of credit (10 or 40 points), and one or two Level 2 courses exist. In recent years an increasing number of people have used CertHE courses as a preparation and entry qualification for full-time degree study.
Language courses introduce and develop skills in a very wide range of foreign languages, with assessment at University Level 1 seamlessly integrated.
A very wide range of academic subjects is offered, across the Arts, Natural and Social Sciences. Provision is driven by what is appropriate to GU, with emphasis on accessible courses and day events across the Sciences and Humanities, and the courses are offered for adults to use to their own ends in their own lives. Developed and delivered by dedicated research-active DACE subject specialists, strong links have been forged across the University: colleagues from other Faculties including senior members of staff contribute to the ACE courses in particular. Continuing Professional Development type courses for professional groups are mostly left to other providers, however.
The Access programme (apparently not included in the review of provision) shares many features with these programmes but it involves study to a specific end: entry to full-time degree study. It aims to open up a route into degree study for those who have not previously had the opportunity to benefit from it. Students are introduced to university teaching and learning practices via in-depth study of two academic subjects, throughout an academic year. Successful completion is accepted for entry to many degree courses in lieu of ‘Highers’ by Admissions Officers in Glasgow and many other universities.
The Glasgow University Global Vision refers to giving students an ‘excellent student experience’, the evidence that this is what they get in DACE is overwhelming. All courses are evaluated via student questionnaires, with very high satisfaction ratings, typically above 95%. Staff-student committees are operated for each of the main programmes.
Who are our Students?
So far in session 2010-11, there have been 5000 enrolments on OP courses, 700 of these on CertHE. Students come from all walks of life with age range 18-90. Some are taking a first step back into education and others may even have graduated from Glasgow University but wish for different personal and/or vocational reasons to be lifelong learners. In the current session so far 1500 people are using Individual Learning Accounts (ILA – available to people earning less than 22,000 p.a.) to contribute to their course fees.
230 people enrolled on the Access programme. 100 people began full-time degree study having completed Access in session 2009-10 or, in a handful of cases, CertHE courses, about 75 of these in Glasgow University.
The Court proposal if approved will cut off the University from the community in which it is located and thereby turn away from a civic mission which has characterised the institution for centuries. It will deprive thousands of local people, many on low income, the opportunity for effective access to the benefits of higher education. The suggestion that the DACE staff are under-performing is patently untrue. The lecturing staff are all research active and the personal testimonies of students together with student evaluations of courses testifies to the highest teaching quality. Our students numbers have remained steady and it is clear that in a period of recession lifelong learning should be supported and not dismantled.