Challenges for Open and Distance Learning in the Post-2010 Decade: Scenarios for Institutional Innovation
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European universities are ready to materialise their strategies for post-2010. How well equipped are today’s universities for tomorrow’s demands? In the face of enormous socio-economic and demographic challenges, Europe requires a more advanced educational performance, providing a better contribution to innovation, competitiveness and economic growth.
Educational systems and associated business models must be agile enough to respond and survive to changing external factors. Universities are currently facing an increasing demand for STEM graduates (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), amidst lagging student numbers and unpleasant changes in national funding schemes.
Ascertaining one’s role and place within the innovation society is essential not only for conventional (research-based) universities, but also for open and distance learning universities (education-based). Whereas traditional universities commence strategies on serving the lifelong learner, open and distance learning universities realise that sole education delivery, without acts of innovation and entrepreneurship, is draining. To be ready for the next decade these universities must search to create added value and innovate their institutional models accordingly.
Building on the year 2009, which was proclaimed the year of creativity and innovation, the European Commission continues to promote innovation and entrepreneurship among its Member States. In this paper, the open and distance learning universities (in particular) are assessed on their potential to innovate beyond flexible education towards generating new ways of academic and commercial entrepreneurship, including (networked) initiatives of educational and enterprise incubation. It is evident that universities cannot do without creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship: this is the engine of (long-term) prosperity not only for universities, but for enterprises, economy and society as a whole.