The engaged university as a public good
The Annual Conference was held at the University of Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education at Rewley House from 16 to 18 March 2016; it attracted 106 delegates.
The Conference is limited to two days and this meant a very packed programme. We were welcomed by the University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, who reminded us of Oxford’s role in the origins of the university adult education movement. In the opening keynote Peter Horrocks, Vice Chancellor of the Open University, spoke eloquently about the pressing need to reverse the decline in part-time higher education, while drawing Conference’s attention to some small but promising signs of Government action in this respect.
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. They demonstrated the impressive breadth of responses to the Conference theme of ‘the engaged university’, presenting practice and reflection from across the UK and beyond. There were 40 presentations in total. The presentations were accompanied by a range of poster sessions.
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. We are most grateful to Liz Marr and her colleagues for this publishing partnership.
Around the formal academic programme of the Conference there were a range of other features. On the Thursday evening the Conference Dinner was held in the impressive surroundings of the Dining Hall of Trinity College. The drinks reception before the Dinner featured the launch of a new book by John Field and others. The evening was concluded by the ceremony for the annual UALL Awards for creativity and innovation in lifelong learning provision – please see details below.
The annual keynote address from Professor David Schejbal the President of our sister organisation UPCEA (Universities Professional Continuing Education Association) from the United States gave us a valuable insight into the state of higher education in the USA, including the fact that only 15% of undergraduates now conform to the ‘traditional’ image of young full-time students on a leafy campus.
This was followed by the now-traditional International Panel session. This session comprised a fascinating and informative range of insights into the international context for lifelong learning.
UALL greatly values these international affiliations and looks forward to developing them further. Other delegates came from overseas and as ever we were delighted to welcome them.
The conference closed with the customary valedictions and thanks.