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A comparison of developments in university continuing education in Finland, the UK and Sweden

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This paper develops work carried out under the aegis of a European Commission-funded university continuing education (UCE) network. It compares the ways in which UCE has developed in three countries within Northern Europe. The authors firstly review the developments of university education in general in Finland, the UK and Sweden, paying particular attention to the factors that historically have influenced UCE. They then focus on developments and policy imperatives of the last decade. A number of convergences and divergences in policy and practice in the three countries are pointed to. In both Finland and the UK, UCE is well defined by state or quasi-state agencies and is an activity that has been located within well-defined structural units in most institutions. Universities in these two countries have a diverse mission based on a national lifelong learning agenda. By contrast, in Sweden, whilst there is a longstanding international tradition of adult education rooted within democratic movements and a recognition of the importance of equality of access, the provision is to a large extent embedded in universities and not manifest as UCE. What provision that does exist as UCE is patchily distributed across the university sector and nonuniform in character. UCE provision within Finland and UK to varying degrees in becoming more diverse in its make-up. The presence of new providers in a 'CE market', an emphasis on UCE as an economic instrument, moves towards the accreditation of provision and the loss of a particular identity for UCE are amongst factors creating increasing heterogeneity of provision in these countries.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2004

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