The Times They Are a-Changin’: Time for a Major Emphasis on the Three Ls of Lifelong Learning at Canadian Universities

Alan Middleton


This article contends that university continuing education is in need of a dramatic repositioning in the minds and wallets of most university administrations. In order to respond both to a developed economy’s need for the continuous upgrading of skills and knowledge and to universities’ needs for new funding sources, the provision of lifelong education and training—lifelong learning—needs to be strategically central to a university’s vision, mission, and goals. Right now, in its non-degree form, it is a peripheral activity making only minor contributions to universities’ reputation and revenue: according to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada in its 2008 report Trends in Higher Education—Volume 3: Finance, only $300 million was earned by universities in noncredit courses. This had not changed much in a decade. Canadian universities are missing out on opportunities in reputation, revenue, and relevance, both domestically and globally. The article goes on to suggest the steps needed in the development of an effective lifelong learning strategy. Some would require changes in university management processes and philosophy to be effective, but continuation of the present half-hearted approach will not succeed in serving either Canada’s lifelong learning needs or its universities’ needs for relevance and revenue.

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