22 SES 14 C, Diversity in Academics (Students and Staff)
Higher education (HE) faced and equally stirred societal and educational changes since its inception; a relatively recent example being its transformation from elite to mass HE in numerous countries since the 1970s (Trow, 2007). Formerly being available only to a small, privileged group, today’s student body is of diversity unseen before – including vast numbers of so-called “non-traditional students” (NTS) (Stöter et al., 2014). From a first consideration of this group in the 1970s (Gould & Cross, 1972), various definitions were advanced; most often including the following attributes: “delayed enrollment into post-secondary education, attended part time, financially independent, worked full time while enrolled, had dependents other than a spouse, was a single parent, did not obtain a standard high school diploma” (Horn & Carroll, 1996, p. 2). A definition of NTS by the European Union Targeted Socio-Economic Research Program Project (1998–2001) on adult access to HE has a similar focus: “A new mature student entrant (by age in respective countries) with no previous HE qualifications whose participation in HE is constrained by structural factors additional to age” (Johnston et al., 2002, p. 5). These changing student profiles constitute a challenge for many conventional universities whose structures regarding student support and delivery of content are often incapable of responding to the diverse needs of NTS (Kerres & Lahne, 2009).
Whereas comparative analysis of this group was carried out for predominantly European and “Western” countries (Schütze & Slowey, 2012), the question remains whether this discourse is meaningful in other parts of the world. Approaching the discourse on NTS in such a country, Turkey, is the aim of this study.
Turkey, geographically and culturally connecting Europe with the adjacent regions, signed the Bologna Declaration in 2001 and has steadily been working towards the reforms’ implementation (Yagci, 2010). In the academic year 2013/2014, Turkey’s HE system catered to about 5.5 million students, roughly 1.8 million out of which were 26 years of age and older (Higher Education Council [HEC], 2014). Out of the 5.5 million students, Anadolu University has about 2.4 million enrolled in its open education system (OES) (HEC, no date). A randomly sampled study on students studying at Anadolu University's OES by Cekerol (2012) shows that out of the participating student group of roughly 70,000, a majority reported to work besides studying, studied to obtain a university degree, or – to a lesser extent– to have an educational experience unavailable before. These findings indicate certain congruence with the definitions of NTS cited above – however, a literature search on the specific term NTS and Turkish HE does not reveal further results. It can thus be assumed that comprehensive and internationally available research on Turkish students, meeting several characteristics for being considered NTS in other countries, does not exist. Nevertheless, analyzing what kind of discourse on this student group and its needs and demands might occur within Turkish academe and how these are being negotiated will lead to helpful insights – not only for this specific country but for also for other, research-wise still neglected HE systems as well.
Thus, this study attempts to answer the following questions:
- How do Turkish experts in the field describe the state of research on NTS in Turkey?
- To what extent are the existing definitions of NTS applicable to the Turkish context?
- How do the experts estimate further developments regarding NTS in Turkish higher education?
Cekerol, K. (2012). The demand for higher education in Turkey and open education. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 11(3), 344–356. Gläser, J., & Laudel, G. (2010). Experteninterviews und qualitative Inhaltsanalyse als Instrumente rekonstruierender Untersuchungen. (4. ed.). Wiesbaden: VS. Gould, S. B., & Cross, K. P. (Eds.). (1972). Explorations in non-traditional study. The Jossey-Bass series in higher education (2. ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. HEC. (2014). Number of students by age in 2013-2014 academic year. Retrieved from https://istatistik.yok.gov.tr/yuksekogretimIstatistikleri/2014/2014_7.pdf [last accessed Jan 31, 2015] HEC. (no date). Öğrenim Türüne Göre Öğrenci Sayıları Raporu. Retrieved from https://istatistik.yok.gov.tr/ [last accessed Jan 31, 2015] Horn, L. J., & Carroll, C. D. (1996). Nontraditional undergraduates: Trends in enrollment from 1986 to 1992 and persistence and attainment among 1989-90 beginning postsecondary students. Postsecondary education descriptive analysis reports. Statistical analysis report. Washington DC: National Centre for Education Statistics. Johnston, R., Merrill, B., Correia, A. M. R., Sarmento, A., Kanervo, K., CREA, Lönnheden, C., Bron, A., Alheit, P., Henze, A., & Greer, P. (2002). Enriching higher education: learning and teaching with non-traditional adult students (LIHE-Learning in HE: Improving practice for non-traditional adult students). Coventry, UK: University of Warwick. Kerres, M., & Lahne, M. (2009). Chancen von e-learning als Beitrag zur Umsetzung einer Lifelong-Learning-Perspektive an Hochschulen. In N. Apostolopoulos, H.Hoffmann, V. Mansmann, & A. Schwill (Eds.), E-Learning 200: Lernen im digitalen Zeitalter (p. 347–57). Münster, GER: Waxmann. Mayring, P. (2003). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Grundlagen und Techniken. (8. ed.). Weinheim/Basel: Beltz. Slowey, M., & Schuetze, H. (Eds.). (2012). Global perspectives on higher education and lifelong learners. Abingdon: Routledge. Stöter, J., Bullen, M., Zawacki-Richter, O., & von Prümmer, C. (2014). From the Back Door into the Mainstream: The Characteristics of Lifelong Learners. In O. Zawacki-Richter & T. Anderson (Eds.), Online Distance Education: Towards a Research Agenda (pp. 421–457). Edmonton: Athabasca University Press. Yagci, Y. (2010). A different view on the Bologna process: the case of Turkey. European Journal of Education, 45(4), 588–600.
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