University is no longer just for young people: 60% of adults will have to return to the classroom

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The demographic crisis and the change in the typology of jobs due to digitization are forcing the university to change its structure. In the next three decades, the percentage of people between the ages of 18 and 29 will drop by 20% due to the fall in the birth rate. Now, 95% of university students are that age. Less than 5% of undergraduate students and less than 20% of master’s students at face-to-face public universities are over 30 years old. The EU objective is that, by 2030, the 60% of the population between the ages of 25 and 64 have had some type of training experience. That means adults will have to go back to the classroom, albeit virtual, and get out their notebooks and pens whether they want to find a job or keep it.

The new formations, yes, will be flexible and of less duration than a degree, far from the “rigid” structure of the degree and postgraduate, as explained yesterday by the Minister of Universities, Joan Subirats, during the presentation in Malaga of the Action Plan for the Development of University Microcredentials in Spain:

Micro-credentials are something like mini-degrees that are awarded after short courses of a minimum of one credit and a maximum of 25. That is, between one week and four months of training. Many are in digital or hybrid format and are aimed at students who, according to Subirats, “has not been very present in Spanish universities.” «This is the population between 25 and 64 years old, regardless of whether they meet the requirements to enter university. They are people who did not enter in their day because they went to work and now they opt for these courses, “said the minister. In other words, universities will admit students even without a bachelor’s degree. “They will be able to be accredited for their professional career,” explained Subirats, who stressed that the underlying idea is “to open the university to all ages.”

The EU has asked Spain to reinforce its training strategy throughout life, the so-called longlife learning. Before, what a person studied at the university was useful for their whole life, but the structural changes in jobs, and the uncertainty regarding which ones will be needed in the coming years, are causing “deficiencies in certain training courses”, in the words of Subirats. This issue is one of the best things about the new Organic Law of the University System (Losu), approved last March and still pending development.

The microcredentials will serve for the upskilling (teach a worker new skills to improve their performance) and for the reskilling (train a professional to adapt him to a new position). They can be stacked and accumulated, in such a way that the student can get a higher degree accreditation, equivalent to a university degree or a master’s degree, without having to go to the current university entrance exams for people over 35, 40 or 45 years.

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