Lifelong Learning still going strong after 100 years

The new academic year marks a century since Aberystwyth University first set up a department to provide lifelong learning to the local community. Alison Pierse is one of the current tutors and here, she takes a look back at the history of the department as well as highlighting what it has to offer the next generation of students.

aberystwyth uni lifelong learningThe Department of Lifelong Learning has had many reincarnations. We’ve been known as the Department of Extra-Mural studies, Continuing Education, and Community University of Wales. For us though, the name doesn’t matter - it is what we do that counts. We change lives, we offer friendship, we question, we problem solve, we facilitate well-being; and that is what drives us as tutors. Our reward is changing viewpoints, and watching students blossom and thrive.

During the 2019-20 academic year, we are celebrating and giving thanks to the University for appointing the Reverend Herbert Morgan in 1920 as Director of the first Department of Extra Mural Studies in Wales. Born in the Welsh valleys, Morgan had a poor start when it came to education due to the family’s straitened circumstances, but he was given opportunities to excel at a later age.

The early extra mural classes were ‘tutorial classes’, where the tutor encouraged students to develop a broad and open-mind. In 1919, there were 3 tutors, 7 classes and 167 students. This number grew quickly following publication in Westminster of a Report on Adult Education, arguing that the continuing education of adults was of vital importance to the nation’s welfare and security.

Rev Morgan retired in 1940, leaving a department on successful and secure footing. Because of his legacy and that of other directors who followed him, thousands of students have received tuition and life-changing experiences.

Trawling back through the University history books, I found a gem written by Rev Morgan, describing the qualities of extra-mural: “It is comradeship between tutor and students. The tutor acts as a leader… this knowledge is extended by pooling of experience and by the debating of opinions, ideas are clarified, wits are sharpened, sympathies are broadened and friendships formed.’’

In my view, this still holds true today. Lifelong Learning creates a secure learning environment, fulfils aspirations and nurtures individuals. It fosters students who may be seeking the knowledge and new skills to change direction for their career, recover from crisis or integrate within the community. Our students all have one thing in common - they are hungry to learn.

And the common thread that links all directors and tutors is the great understanding of our students’ individual needs; we can deliver learning flexibly and engage students of all abilities.

Today, Lifelong Learning reflects contemporary interests and its aims are firmly focussed on the future. We deliver courses in Professional Development, Art, Art History, Modern Languages, Ecology, Family History, Social Sciences and Humanities which are often accessed by students keen on professional development.

With the benefit of our new learning environment and high-tech resources at our campus, we are now able to deliver a richer learning and teaching experience to celebrate our 100th year.

And we don’t just deliver courses in Aberystwyth – we currently offer classes in five Welsh counties.

So how are we celebrating this landmark birthday? We will be holding a Festival of Learning on Wednesday 25 September 2019, from 3pm- 7pm at the Elystan Morgan Building, Llanbadarn Campus. The Festival offers free taster sessions in the humanities, science, art and languages, and visitors can drop in to any session or stay for the full four hours.

There will also be many new courses, intensive schools and lots of five-credit courses for you to dip your toe in the water and sample our style of learning.

We also share our centenary with women’s suffrage and will be contributing to International Women’s Day 2020. Do you fancy joining us in a women’s ‘Voices in Stitches’ project or contributing to a trade union-style banner for display?

Join one of our short intensive courses and invite a friend from near or far to join the course. Many students travel to attend our classes, particularly our selection of weekend courses. There are plenty of places to stay in Aberystwyth - and if you’re lucky, you may also catch one of our stunning sunsets at the end of the day.

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