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Universities of the Netherlands present Lifelong Learning platform

Universities of the Netherlands present Lifelong Learning platform

From business administrator to engineer and from communication professional to agronomist. Whether you want to improve the world or your chances on the labour market, you can continue to develop your skills at the university throughout life. Today, the universities of the Netherlands are launching the new online platform www.universitairdoorleren.nl. Pieter Duisenberg, president of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands: ‘Our working lives and the labour market have changed dramatically. People are increasingly aware of the importance of continuing to develop their skills. Together with the education providers at senior secondary vocational and higher professional education level, we are setting up a broad range for this purpose. We are launching this new online platform to make our existing online courses more visible to those who wish to continue learning at the university.’


The growing demand for Lifelong Learning is a logical consequence of the rapid changes that are taking place in the various professions and careers that are becoming more flexible. Duisenberg: ‘We are also noticing a growing need for new knowledge and skills for solving major social issues such as the energy transition, digitisation and combating infectious diseases. Education no longer stops with a starting qualification. In order to be able to meet this strong social demand, it is necessary to amend the law and to recognise LLO (Lifelong Learning) as the fourth core government-funded task of the universities, alongside the existing statutory core tasks of research, education and valorisation. However, this requires the investment deficit of at least €1.1 billion for the existing tasks to be resolved first, otherwise there will be no room for new developments.’


Good for individual careers and the knowledge economy
Soufiane Mezouar (29) went back to university last January. ‘I'm a store coordinator for a modest supermarket, but would like to progress to supermarket manager for a large store. That's why I started doing the Master's in Management Sciences at the Open University. It’s quite a task to search through all the courses that are available in the Netherlands, so this new platform is very handy if you are thinking of continuing your studies at university.’


‘Research has shown that there is mainly a great need for short modules that are closely related to the major issues on the labour market,’ says Rob Mudde, Vice Rector Magnificus of Delft University of Technology. ‘When we started, we set ourselves the goal of showing 350 modules but have exceeded this by a long shot.’
Ingrid Thijssen, chair of the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW): ‘The convenience factor is very handy. This new platform helps people to gain an overview of the many opportunities they have to keep developing their skills. All the major changes in our economy are making this more important than ever. The labour market is changing drastically in every respect, from the energy transition and digitisation to more technology in healthcare.’


Doekle Terpstra, chair of Techniek Nederland, is also enthusiastic about the new platform: ‘This is exactly what the business sector needs. Developments in technology are taking place at lightning speed. The tech sector increasingly needs highly qualified technicians who are familiar with the latest insights in the area of sustainable energy technology, for example. The platform offers technicians the opportunity to stay fit for the future.’
 

Collaboration
Intensive collaboration is already taking place in the area of lifelong learning. For example, last year the umbrella organisations the Netherlands Association of Senior Secondary Vocational Schools (MBO-Raad) and the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (Vereniging Hogescholen), together with the VSNU, issued a recommendation in which they jointly advocated a week of personal learning rights per year for every Dutch citizen. Duisenberg: ‘With universitairdoorleren.nl, we are making our academic education accessible to those who wish to keep on developing throughout life. In addition, with the universities of applied sciences, senior secondary vocational institutions and the NRTO (Dutch Council for Training and Education), we are working with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science on a broad training portal to meet this growing need in our society.’ 

Over 1400 modules
The fourteen universities are currently offering 1423 modules on the online platform www.universitairdoorleren.nl, with huge variety in terms of content, length and structure. You can find one-day workshops, such as ‘How do I develop a successful business model?’ at Delft University of Technology, a 42-day Design Thinking course at Erasmus University or a 1080-day Master’s in Environmental Sciences at the Open University. The range of courses on the online platform changes all the time. In consultation with companies and civil society organisations, new modules are constantly being developed in line with the developments on the labour market. 
 

Universities of the Netherlands
The lifelong learning platform is the first joint project to be presented under the new name ‘Universities of the Netherlands’. This new name for the umbrella organisation of Dutch universities lends recognisability to our collaboration and explains precisely what we stand for together as universities. In recent years, networks have also been developed for an increasing number of substantive themes on which academics from the various universities meet and enhance each other. For example, we have our Open Access & Science programme, the Acceleration Plan for Innovation in Education with ICT and our joint fight against the shortage of lecturers. Duisenberg: ‘There is a growing need for these and other networks within our association, which we wish to connect and facilitate in a contemporary way in the future. Our new name and logo underline this practice.’