22 SES 05.5 PS, General Poster Session
General Poster Session
a. Pertinence of the study: Major challenges to HE institutions
The landscape of the post-Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area reveals clear signs of growing convergence but also of the need of expanding and widening the participation in Higher Education (HE) to non-traditional publics following a lifelong learning perspective (Commission of the European Communities, 2001). In this context, HE institutions have been receiving a high number of non-traditional students in general. Hence, this fact constitutes new demands and roles for these institutions now facing the challenges of the diversity in students’ profiles, objectives and study approaches as well as professional backgrounds. Therefore, equity of opportunities and rights may be considered a new ‘flag’ that HE must adopt.
In particular, this study will focus on mature students over 23 years old (MS23) who are entering HE institutions. This is not a homogeneous group and distinctions may be established in relation to the ‘typical traditional student’. Also, there are significant differences in age, influences and motivators for access HE, predictors of their success and retention, differences in their employability and professional backgrounds, and career prospects. Moreover, MS23’ experiences of accessing into and progressing through HE vary in quality and approach. Therefore, more discussion is needed specifically in what concerns this public’s implications and impact on the institutional policies and practices: admission criteria, academic preparation/support, curriculum content, teaching approaches and assessment practices.
b. The Portuguese context
In the Portuguese context, legislative and normative documents have established a more flexible access system to HE directed to these students over 23 years old (Law- Decree n.64/2006). Although not having the ‘traditional’ access qualification (the secondary school diploma or equivalent), these non- traditional students provide proof of their skills and abilities to attend HE courses, by taking specially designed exams and submitting themselves to a specific access ‘door’ with challenging criteria and assessment moments. This legal framework brought new challenges to HE institutions and the responsibility to create specific regulations and assessment procedures that best suited the institutional profiles (Baptista, 2009; Cabral et al., 2013).
c. Main MS23’ characteristics
MS23 are usually characterised as adults with more than 23 years old with specific academic, professional, familiar and social features, and who access HE through a specific gateway. As such, we may synthesise several inter-related characteristics of MS23: they (i) dropped out school earlier; (ii) may not have academic qualifications; (iii) have been apart from formal academic system quite a while; (iv) do not have previous experience in HE; (v) may come from low economic and social groups of society; (vi) have several responsibilities and commitments at work and at home; (vii) frequently attend University in part-time, due to factors like limited time to study, few opportunities given by HE institutions concerning time schedules, and adults’ necessity of attending a full time work; (viii) are usually financially independent; and (ix) are responsible, mature, have defined goals to re-entering formal learning contexts (Bago, Fonseca & Santos, in press; Chao, DeRocco & Flynn, 2007; Correia & Mesquita, 2006; Crawford, 2004; Hitchens-Smith, 2007; Jarvis, 1995; Kasworm, 2003; Rogers, 2002; Shankar, 2004).
d. Study objectives
With this poster, the authors aim to (i) identify the major trends that distinguish and approximate two different Portuguese HE institutions regarding MS23’ profiles, considering specific variables identified in the methodology section; (ii) analyse the variables along a timeframe since the beginning of the access program directed to MS23 (academic year 2006/2007) until 2012-2013; and (iii) reflect on MS23’ profiles that usually choose these two different Portuguese HE institutions.
Bago, J., Fonseca, H.M.A.C., & Santos, L. (in press). Back to University: a first glance on the transitions of non-traditional students in Portugal. In Access, Learning Careers and Identities Network: Transitions and Identity in Learning and Life. Baptista, A.V. (2009). O estudante adulto não-tradicional na Universidade de Aveiro. Tese de mestrado. Aveiro: Universidade de Aveiro. Cabral, A.P., Dias, L.T., Neves, N., Gomes, M.A., & Mateus, H. (2013). Aprendizagem ao longo da vida: a experiência com alunos M23 no ISPGaya. Politécnica (20), 57-62. Chao, E., DeRocco, E., & Flynn, M. (2007). Adult learners in higher education: Barriers to success and strategies to improve results. Available at: http://wdr.doleta.gov/research/ FullText_Documents/Adult%20Learners%20in%20Higher%20Education1.pdf (Jan. 2008). Commission of the European Communities (2001). Communication from the Commission: Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a reality. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/ education/policies/lll/life/communication/com_en.pdf (Feb. 2008). Correia, A., & Mesquita, A. (2006). Novos públicos no ensino superior: Desafios da sociedade do conhecimento. Lisboa: Edições Sílabo. Crawford, D.L. (2004). The Role of Aging in Adult Learning: Implications for Instructors in Higher Education. Available at: http://www.newhorizons.org/lifelong/higher_ed/crawford.htm (Feb. 2008). Hitchens-Smith, C. (2007). Perceptions of traditional and non-traditional students enrolled in a developmental reading course in a community college setting. Available at: etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-06072007-094204/unrestricted/CAROLYN22.pdf (Jan. 2008). Jarvis, P. (1995). Adult and Continuing Education: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge. Kasworm, C. (2003). Setting the stage: Adults in higher education. Available at: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/104539103/PDFSTART (Sept. 2007). Law Decree n.64/2006 de 21 de março. Diário da República - I Série. Ministério da Ciência Tecnologia e Ensino Superior. Rogers, A. (2002). Teaching adults. Buckingham: Open University Press. Shankar, A.D. (2004). Interpreting the Narratives of Non-Traditional Students: An Exploratory Study. Available at: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/ 0000019b/80/13/c3/0c.pdf (Nov. 2007).
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