Marcus Ludescher University of Graz, Austria

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  • “Vita Activa” and “ADD LIFE!”
  • Non-traditional students in Austria & two projects on Learning in Later Life at the KFU Graz
  • Marcus Ludescher
  • University of Graz, Austria
  • Thursday, 07 December 2006
  • Graz, Austria


  • Non-traditional students in Austria (NTS) and alternative routes to Higher Education (HE); Senior Students in Austria; Learning in Later Life (LLL): Research Project
  • Project Vita Activa: Basics and Progress
  • Project ADD LIFE: Basics and Products
  • Contact

Why do we deal with NTS & LLL?

  • Ageing population: e.g. Styria: 23% = over 60 (2005) 33% = over 60 (2030)
  • Not only the economy and the labour market but also our civil society cannot afford to lose the skills, competences and experiences of older people
  • Mission of our universities as state funded institutions is to transfer their knowledge to the society (University Law 2002)
  • Development plan of our university 2005-2010: “Uni for Life – university education for everyone between 18 and 88”: university shall become a “partner in learning” for students of any and all ages.

Non-traditional students in Austria: Definitions

  • No overall definition that applies to all systems of HE
  • 3 dimensions which distinguish traditional from non-traditional students (“normal student’s biography”):
  • Access to higher education (secondary school leaving certificate = “Matura”)
  • Time of enrolment and age (18-19 years )
  • Patterns and intensity of study (full-time)
  • Results of a survey (H. Pechar et al. 2001):
  • Only 28% of Austrian students belong to this group; although every second student enrolled immediately after secondary school, a growing number of students has a full-time (16%), or a part-time job (23%), or works occasionally during the semester (27,6%).
  • Motives: gain practice, financial

Austrian Education System

Alternative routes to Higher Education: Overview

  • Externistenreifeprüfung
  • Studienberechtigungsprüfung
  • Berufsreifeprüfung
  • 4,2 % of students (2005) have chosen one of these routes to HE.
  • ad 1. Some secondary schools offer (evening) classes to prepare “external” candidates for A-Level (very “traditional”; high drop out rates!)
  • ad 2. Specialized university entrance qualification, which gives access to a chosen subject as Medicine, Business Management, etc. (1985)
  • ad 3. equivalent to the “Matura” and gives general access to Higher Education (1997)

Alternative routes to Higher Education: SBP & BRP

  • Studienberechtigungsprüfung (SBP)
  • Prerequisites: previous professional experience or training in the area of the target field of study; Austrian citizenship; min. age = 22 years
  • Exams: 5 = 1 essay, 1-3 core subjects, 1-3 optional subjects; Medicine (1 essay, Biology, Chemistry 2, Physics 1, 1 optional subject)
  • Preparatory courses: Universities (application for admission, examining board), Certified Adult Education Centres (up to 4 of 5 exams)
  • Duration: approx. 1 year
  • Berufsreifeprüfung (BRP)
  • Prerequisites: completion of an apprenticeship (e.g. electrician, hair dresser), intermediate technical or vocational school (min. 3 years); nurses, medical laboratory assistants, etc. ; min. age = 17 years (last exam not to be taken before 19)
  • Exams: 4 = German, Mathematics, Foreign Language, subject-related exam
  • Preparatory courses: Secondary schools (application for admission, examining board), Certified Adult Education Centres (up to 3 of 4 exams)
  • Duration: approx. 2 years

Senior students in Austria: facts & figures

  • Definition according to Austrian Rectors’ Conference (1978): female students 40+ and male students 45+ “without vocational interests and aims”
  • 2 routes in terms of enrolment status: “regular” students (credit-bearing courses leading to an academic degree) versus “irregular” students; the latter was a popular way for senior students to pursue their own interests without any pressure of taking exams
  • Number of older students fell after introduction of tuition fees 2001/02: The number of irregular students at the KFU Graz (55+) fell from 1,246 (13.7% of all “irregulars”) in winter term 2000/01 to 168 (< 3% of all irregulars) in winter term 2002/03.*
  • In 2005/06 3.8% of the regular students at Austrian universities are 40+, 0.59% are 60+.

Learning in Later Life – Results of a research project

  • Study carried out by the Department of Sociology, University of Vienna (F. Kolland, 2005) 2003-04*:
    • 27 non-standardised interviews with experts from educational, seniors’ and social organisations and standardised telephone surveys of 610 trainers
  • Some results:
    • Apart from informal learning activities, learning activities in later life take place mainly outside traditional institutions of adult education / HE: 2/3 of these activities are provided by “non-formal” institutions such as charity organisations, churches, lobby groups etc.
    • Elderly” (70+) are under-represented
    • women are over-represented: almost 1/3 of the activities are attended exclusively by women
  • *F. Kolland (2005): Bildungschancen für ältere Menschen. Ansprüche an ein gelungenes Leben. LIT Verlag: Wien.

Vita Activa: Basics (1)

  • Title: Development of a Concept for a “University of the Third Age” as well as Testing and Evaluating of Pilot Modules
  • Started on 1 September 2005; Duration: 23 months
  • Supported by two Austrian Federal Ministries: Federal Ministry of Social Security, Generations and Consumer Protection and the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture
  • Considerable contribution by the University of Graz
  • Target groups: senior citizens and non-traditional students (women returners, drop-outs, persons without university entrance qualifications, etc.)

Vita Activa: Basics (2)

  • Background: Development plan KFU Graz “Uni for Life” 2005-2010
  • Main objectives of the project:
  • develop a profile, an organisational model, a new (university-accredited) programme and
  • institutionalise what has been developed
  • Quality:
  • research-based level
  • accompanying programme including: personal growth, study skills, IT-skills

Vita Activa: Progress

  • Project environment analysis:
  • a. Desk-based research: Statistical data gathering and analysis
  • b. Survey of providers of Learning in Later Life done from Jan – March 2006 in Styria; results: 18 institutions, 107 courses; topics: IT-skills, personal skills, languages, health and well-being; mostly short courses, max. 2-weeks
  • Organisational models (organisation and management, basic structure programme, resources needed, finance model) - comparative analysis of best practice (examples in progress):
  • a. Access to regular university studies accompanied by additional seminars
  • b. U3A as a separate programme, e.g. Studium Generale
  • Pilot Modules: Summer University Vita Activa 2006: What does Nano Research contribute to improving the quality of our everyday life? (September 2006, 1-week programme)

ADD LIFE: Basics 1

  • Title: ADD-LIFE! ADDing Quality to LIFE through inter-generational learning via universities
  • Duration: 1 October 2006 – 30 September 2008
  • Supported by EC (SOKRATES, Grundtvig 1)
  • Aims (amongst others):
  • Explore different models of inter-generational learning, collaborative learning between older and younger learners, and inter-generational collaboration on designing new modules
  • Develop learning opportunities that will promote participation of individuals in European civil society as promoters and facilitators of others
  • Design 12 modules using different models, pilot 6 of these

ADD LIFE: Basics 2

  • Basic Framework
  • Project Contractor: University of Graz, Austria
  • Project Co-ordinator: Dr. Andrea Waxenegger
  • Project Administrator / Local Co-ordinator: Dr. Marcus Ludescher
  • Consultant: Prof. Dr. Franz Kolland, University of Vienna, Austria
  • Evaluator: Prof. Dr. Raymond Thomson, University of Strathclyde, Scotland

ADD LIFE: Basics 3

  • Full partners
  • University of Graz, AT, Co-ordinator; Andrea Waxenegger
  • Brno University of Technology, CZ; Petr Vavřín
  • Goldsmiths University of London, UK; Mary Claire Halvorson
  • Summer University of Jyväskylä, FI; Anneli Hietaluoma
  • University of Pécs, HU; Valéria Pavluska
  • University of A Coruña; José Millán-Calenti
  • European University Continuing Education Network – EUCEN; Pat Davies

ADD LIFE: Basics 4

  • Associate Partners
  • Technology Centre Deutschlandsberg Ltd in cooperation with the Municipality of Deutschlandsberg, Austria
  • Association of Third Age Universities, Czech Republic
  • The Learning from Experience Trust, United Kingdom
  • Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Germany
  • Educators’ Center Association – House of Civic Communities, Hungary
  • Provincial Association of Pensioners and Retired Persons from A Coruña, Spain)
  • European Association for the Education of Adults - EAEA
  • Links with other European and National LLL Networks and Networks for Learning in Later Life.

ADD LIFE: Products 1

  • Taught Modules
  • developed year 1, piloted year 2
  • Sustainability and Development
  • Information Society - Digital Literacy
  • Employability and Mentoring/Coaching/Guidance/Advice
  • Civil Society
  • Culture
  • Health Sciences
  • Basic features: Adopt one model of inter-generational teaching/learning setting; explore the use of ECTS for Lifelong Learning (target 2-3 ECTS as well as university-accreditation), academic content and functional part, use of ICT as integral part of the learning arrangements, integrate European dimension

ADD LIFE: Products 2

  • Facilitated Open Modules
  • developed year 2
  • Negotiated with the potential target groups
  • In a collaborative process
  • Comprising different generations
  • Could be: specialised module following the taught module; new theme; soft skills; IT-skills
  • Basic features: explore the use of ECTS for Lifelong Learning;
  • target 2-3 ECTS as well as university-accreditation

ADD LIFE: Product 3

  • Developmental Material to be produced
  • Report “ADD LIFE! - Lessons learned 1: Inter-generational teaching and learning in university teaching – Experiences and Recommendations”
  • Report “ADD LIFE! - Lessons learned 2: The universities’ potential role in training promoters for different fields of voluntary and paid work – Experiences and Recommendations”
  • Re port “ADD LIFE! - Lessons learned 3: Facilitated collaborative design of inter-generational university courses – Experiences and Recommendations”.
  • The reports will be in English and translated into the languages of the partner countries involved, i.e. DE, CZ, HU, FI, ES.


  • Dr. Marcus Ludescher
  • E-mail:
  • Vita Activa:
  • supported by
  • ADD LIFE: 229596 - CP -1-2006-1- AT - GRUNDTVIG – G1PP

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