The Annual Conference – the 70th in UALL’s history – was held at the University of Strathclyde from 11 - 13 March 2015.
The Conference is limited to two days and this meant a very packed programme. We had received a record number of high-quality proposals for presentations, and as UALL aims to be as inclusive as possible it was a major task to fit these into a timetable – and to group them in a complementary way - which included various other highlights. In the event we achieved this, though at the expense of limiting tea and coffee breaks.
The Conference was only the second event in the new Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC), but it is to the University’s credit that there were no teething problems – indeed everything worked smoothly and with willing support from the staff.
We were welcomed by the University’s Vice Principal Professor Scott MacGregor, who reminded us of the University’s origins in the adult education movement. In the opening keynote, Professor Craig Mahoney, Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West of Scotland set exactly the right tone with his vision of a ‘community university’ based on his own experience as well as that of his current institution which, we were told, has 30% of Scotland’s population in its catchment area. Our warmest thanks are due to these opening speakers.
The workshop presentations and discussions formed the main part of the programme. These sessions form the heart of the Conference, in which practitioners and researchers have the opportunity to present and discuss their current work. This covered a very large range, from college partnerships to senior studies, employer engagement to community development, and from specific projects to concepts of ‘lifelong learning’ and a ‘manifesto’ for a UALL vision for universities.
Presenters were reminded that an edited selection of papers will be published in a special issue of the Open University Journal Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning to appear by the end of 2015.
Thanks are due to all presenters (including poster sessions) and to the members of the Executive Committee for chairing the workshop sessions.
The Conference has a number of other features, the first of which was a civic reception by the Bailey of Glasgow on the Wednesday evening. We were welcomed most warmly, and entertained magnificently in the opulent surroundings of the City Chambers. This very high standard of catering and surroundings was continued on the Thursday evening by the Conference Dinner in the remarkable Rennie Macintosh-designed ‘House for an Art Lover’ where, despite the heavy rain, delegates enjoyed a very fine dinner in the splendid Music Room.
A tradition of the Conference is a book launch at the drinks reception before the Dinner, where we welcomed a new book by Professor Anne Jones of Brunel University, in which she relates many of the events, publications and posts held in a long career as a professional educator.
Also at the Dinner we held the awards ceremony for the annual UALL Awards for creativity and innovation in lifelong learning. This has become a popular event, and Pauline McManus (Warwick) did a splendid job as MC, awarding certificates to the runners-up and building up the suspense before the final award of the coveted UALL Trophy. Our congratulations go to the winner, Middlesex University, and to the runners-up: Wolverhampton, Oxford, Glasgow Caledonian and Greenwich.
The Conference is pleased to welcome international delegates, and as ever we had delegates from a number of countries. The now-traditional International Panel session as always cast a fascinating light on the state of lifelong learning. Panel members were our invited guests from sister associations – the Universities Professional Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) from the United States, the Canadian Association for University Continuing Education (CAUCE), and EUCEN - the European University Continuing Education Network. We are most grateful to the Presidents of these three bodies – Bea Gonzalez, Christian Blanchette and Andrea Waxenegger - for their valuable contribution. UALL greatly values these international affiliations and looks forward to developing them further.
The final feature of the Conference was a new venture – a panel presentation of four research projects from the University of Glasgow on a variety of lifelong learning topics. All are funded transnational projects, and we are most grateful to Mike Osborne, John Tibbitt and colleagues for these presentations and for being willing to condense their content into a very brief format.
The conference closed with the customary valedictions and thanks – to which must be added the names of the new Chair of UALL, the Reverend Canon Professor Peter Neil and Dr Rob Mark, for both of whom this was their first Conference in their new UALL roles.
Following the official close of the Conference a guided walking tour of Glasgow’s Merchant City was conducted by the University’s guides, and with at last dry weather this as much appreciated by delegates.
From the feedback and comments we’ve receive so far, the Conference was a great success. This is in no small part owing to the excellent venues, and thanks are due to the staff of the Centre for their unflagging support.