Bé Breij en Liesbeth Korebrits

Column: Lifelong learning is our core task

Social issues are becoming increasingly complex and workplace developments are happening at lightning speed. Roles are changing, jobs are disappearing, people are retiring at a later age and digitisation is all around us. Lifelong learning keeps alumni and other professionals attractive and employable on the labour market. What role does our university play in this?

Radboud University is a foremost provider of postgraduate education. Every year, some 30,000 professionals, alumni and interested individuals register for our courses, training programmes, lectures and other forms of continued education.

We are seeing a growing demand for flexible, short-term, accessible and accredited education programmes for professionals. In 2020, Radboud Academy was launched on behalf of the Executive Board to offer a single point of contact from which to address the issues, developments and policies surrounding lifelong learning. Promoting the opportunities for lifelong learning at Radboud University through a portal and a micro-credentials pilot are just two examples of what we do as a lifelong learning centre.

We also develop new interdisciplinary programmes in collaboration with relevant parties. Our core task is to use the university’s scientific knowledge and expertise to equip people with the tools to effect a real change in society. We do this in close collaboration with the faculties and centres for postgraduate education (POP’s), such as the CPO, Radboud In'to Languages, RadboudCSW, the Health Academy and RMa. Our university’s broad scope also allows us to make special connections and to colour outside the lines, as it were. This is not only appreciated by our clients, but also by our own lecturers and researchers.

At the end of March we launched the second edition of our five-day Young Leaders for Sustainability course, a collaboration between Radboud Academy and Sustainability programme director Marije Klomp. Thirteen professionals looking to improve the sustainability of their organisation or sector engaged in a Socratic debate on this topic under the guidance of ethicist Marcel Becker. Professor of Environmental Policy and Politics Ingrid Visseren-Hamakers spoke passionately about the importance of the sustainability transition, which will inspire new interactions, encounters, and debates in the future.

Courses can spark interesting questions and collaborations for participants and researchers alike. To give an example, we are currently exploring the possibility of launching an in-company course on community-building for sustainability, in collaboration with Willem Elbers, the lead trainer at RadboudCSW. This gives him access to a new and interesting social partner.

Our university has so much to contribute and is happy to provide a platform for lecturers and researchers from various disciplines. Our For the Curious courses not only make us relevant to professionals, but also to a wide range of interested participants. As far as we are concerned, universities have a social obligation to make their scientific knowledge available through lifelong learning to everyone.

In the recent Kohnstamm lecture 'The future will tell', Kim Putters highlighted the importance of lifelong learning for sustainable development with equal opportunities for all: "It is our collective responsibility today and should be a top agenda item for years to come, involving everyone from the government to social partners, educational institutes, social organisations and citizens."

We take this responsibility seriously! In the new Position Paper by the Universities of the Netherlands (UNL), which we co-authored, the cooperating universities call for a system change to improve the conditions for lifelong learning. To meet societal challenges and to create a future-proof society, it is important that lifelong learning becomes even more accessible to a wider audience. After all, lifelong learning is not just for the young - personal and professional development is for all ages.

Written by
Prof. B.M.C. Breij (Bé)
Professor of Latin Bé Breij is the dean of Radboud Academy and Liesbet Korebrits is the programme director. From 2023 onwards, the National LLO Catalyst will provide a strong financial incentive to educational institutes to set up sustainable lifelong learning projects. Radboud Academy plays a coordinating role in this on behalf of the university. If you have any ideas or suggestions for continued education programmes, please feel free to share them with us.