The Vice-Chancellor of Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU), the Rev’d Canon Professor Peter Neil, in his capacity as Chair of the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL), hosted its Annual Conference at Downing College, University of Cambridge from 21-23rd March 2018. The theme of the Conference was ‘Opportunities for Lifelong Learning in a Changing World’ and was attended by international delegates from Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Poland, Turkey, and the USA as well as many participants from the four jurisdictions in the UK.
In his introductory talk, Professor Neil highlighted the significance of this time for Higher Education in England in general and part-time and mature learners in particular. He suggested that it was a time of opportunity for the sector even if it appeared that at the moment it was ‘gardening in a gale’ rather than gently tending a landscape, as alluded to by the chair of the new Office for Students, Sir Michael Barber.
It was a particular pleasure to welcome the Chief Executive of the Office for Students, Nicola Dandridge CBE as the main key-note speaker. In her lecture Ms Dandridge focused on the centrality of the students within the new regulatory landscape, although she acknowledged the complexities associated with the transition to the new system. Many of the aspects highlighted in her talk resonated with the delegates such as the importance of social mobility, the need to continue to provide not only access arrangements but to ensure that students from all backgrounds received a quality experience of Higher Education and the focus on student outcomes. Many of the areas raised in Ms Dandridge’s talk stimulated debate and prepared the way for the many presentations and seminars which formed the rest of the conference.
In commenting on his four-year term of office as Chair of UALL, Professor Neil said: ‘UALL is an organisation with which I have been engaged for many years since my time at Aberystwyth as Director of Education and Lifelong Learning. Its focus is on non-traditional students and part-time and mature learners sits very neatly with the work we do at BGU. It is a privilege to share in this work and to see the many connections we have internationally’.
In recognition of the increasing international links which UALL has, memoranda of understanding were signed with the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AACE), Canadian Association for University Continuing Education (CAUCE), Higher Education Lifelong Learning Ireland Network (HELLIN) and Turkish Universities Continuing Education Network (TUSEM).
The Vice-Chancellor regards this role as enhancing the reputation and the reach of BGU nationally and internationally.