There is a general consensus in the education policy discussion regarding the need for and the significance of continuing academic education. The existing and increasing challenges of demographic change, of technological development and international competition, the growing need for highly qualified personnel as well as the avoidance of social conflicts demand that people living in Germany should have the highest possible educational attainments. And these attainments must be constantly updated and adapted to new tasks and changing framework conditions in industry, technology and law.
Apart from traditional further training programmes in the form of seminars and courses, advanced study programmes that build on an initial degree or lead to an initial degree on the basis of vocational training and experience are becoming increasingly significant at universities. It is now a matter of facilitating access to these study courses in line with the agreements under the Bologna Process and improving the recognition of people's existing skills and competences. The BMBF is therefore supporting such courses with its initiative "Transitions from vocational to higher education", the follow-up programme to its initiative "Recognition of Vocational Competences in Higher Education" ("Anrechnung beruflicher Kompetenzen auf Hochschulstudiengänge" - ANKOM).
A further example is the "Stu+Be: Study for people in work - Success factors for lifelong learning at institutions of higher education" within the framework of the funding priority "Empirical educational research: Future workshop higher education teaching" (Empirische Bildungsforschung: Zukunftswerkstatt Hochschullehre"). The role of higher education institutions as a provider of "Adult Learning" has been studied at three universities and four international institutions of higher education. The conditions and factors for the success of lifelong learning have been elaborated more precisely with reference to the dimensions of strategy, implementation, didactics, media, organization and management.
The HIS (Higher Education Information System) study "Survey and typification of courses for working adults and dual study courses" (Erhebung und Typisierung berufsbegleitender und dualer Studienangebote) takes into account all the dual study programmes and programmes for working adults that were offered by state and state-recognized higher education institutions and vocational academies in 2009. It covers study courses which provide the student with an academic qualification (e.g. bachelor or master's degree) as well as shorter courses lasting three days or more, so-called certificate courses. The results of the survey show that the range of master's degree programmes for working adults is far larger than that of bachelor's degree programmes for this target group, and the economic sciences are the most common discipline in both areas.
Continuing education must also be designed from the point of view of research. The ambitious innovation policy objectives that are pooled in the High-Tech Strategy (HighTech-Strategie) demand a certain compatibility between the people involved in research and those involved in application in order to shorten and accelerate the translation from a successful research project to products, processes, therapies and services. Continuing education must be planned as the next step wherever research is conducted. Research is not only performed at institutions of higher education but also by research establishments and many companies. Their potential for continuing education must also be developed. Joint training courses can often produce better results.
Further functions of continuing academic education are career advancement and securing one's position in the employment system. This is where the Federal Government-Länder competition "Advancement through Education: Open Universities" ("Aufstieg durch Bildung: offene Hochschulen") plays a role in promoting the establishment and development of continuing academic education for new target groups at institutions of higher education.
The Federal Government is also providing support in the form of various scholarship programmes in order to further tap the potential of skilled staff (cf. Foundation for the promotion of the gifted in vocational training - Stiftung Begabtenförderung berufliche Bildung).
The new Recognition Act, which came into force on 1 April 2012, has considerably improved opportunities for the recognition of professional qualifications gained abroad. The nation-wide network "Integration through qualification" ("Integration durch Qualifizierung - IQ") aims to improve the employment opportunities of adult migrants on the German labour market.
The competition is part of the Federal Government-Länder qualification initiative "Advancement through Education", which was launched in 2008 in order to improve everyone's employment opportunities. This competition encourages higher education institutions to put forward innovative, demand-based and sustainable concepts in order to secure the supply of skilled staff in the long term, improve transfer opportunities between vocational training and academic education, accelerate the translation of new knowledge into practical applications and strengthen the international competitiveness of the science system through sustainable profile development in lifelong academic learning and study programmes designed for working adults.
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