In with the new, building on the old

07 July 2024

Elena Liquete looks at the work CarringtonCrisp recently undertook with Imperial College to help build their lifelong learning strategy.


What’s the future of the university?  How will they teach, who and when?  Just some of the questions that Imperial College asked when they worked with CarringtonCrisp recently to consider the future of their lifelong learning offer.

Universities have historically focused on educating young students pursuing largely linear degrees, but the future of learning is about more than young people and almost certainly not linear.  Universities need to consider how to grow their offer to accommodate a much more diverse group of learners, including those re-entering education at various stages of their personal and professional journeys, while at the same time continuing to deliver excellent degrees for young people.

Adapting to this new reality requires more than simply expanding existing programmes. It requires a fundamental shift from a traditional approach to learning to a new focus on meeting the demands of lifelong learners. The potential rewards for those who succeed are significant, as the global market for lifelong learning continues to grow rapidly.

Of course, lifelong learning is not a new phenomenon. Continuing education, adult education, and similar programs have existed for decades. However, new technologies have significantly transformed learning. In the world of work, technological advancements have also accelerated the rate at which skills become obsolete, creating an urgent demand for continuous learning, flexibility and adaptation.

Working with Leila Guerra, the Associate Provost (Digital Lifelong Learning) at Imperial College, CarringtonCrisp delved into emerging trends and innovative approaches that are reshaping work, society and education. Our research explored the international landscape for lifelong learning, examining different institutional interpretations, challenges, and opportunities. It also considered lifelong learning outside traditional university settings.

At Imperial’s annual President’s Address in March 2024, Professor Hugh Brady announced the launch of the new Imperial Extended Learning Institute as part of the university’s new strategy. Leveraging Imperial’s disciplinary excellence and interdisciplinary capacity, the Institute will help future-proof careers, businesses, and communities by providing the advanced skills training and values-driven leadership needed to thrive in a tech-enabled world. Lifelong learning is at the heart of Imperial’s strategy, reflecting the university’s commitment to adapting to the evolving educational landscape and meeting the needs of a diverse, global learner population.

At the event, Leila Guerra, who has led the planning and development of the Institute stated:

“The Imperial Institute of Extended Learning is our response to the rapid pace of global change and will equip people everywhere and at every life stage with the agility, knowledge and insight to first prepare for the future, and then shape it.”

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