Who needs higher education? What is the role of open university studies when promoting equality in education? Such questions were discussed in the opening seminar of the Alternative Path to University (TRY) project coordinated by the University of Jyväskylä.
The project Alternative Path to University is a collaboration between 11 Finnish universities. Its purpose is to create alternative routes to degree education in addition to admission based on certificates and entrance examinations when the admission process of universities is renewed by 2020.
The project plans and pilots paths to university through open university studies. The paths are for those who do not, for example, have a matriculation examination or whose grades are not high enough for regular university admission. The routes are also intended for those who want to update their competence in the business world or implement a career change. In addition, they offer an opportunity for those with upper secondary education, both general upper secondary and vocational students, to get familiar with university studies and subjects without losing the status of a first-time applicant.
The open university path is not a new invention but its functionality must be improved: currently less than one per cent of degree students are admitted through it. The purpose of the TRY project is to develop open university studies as a credible admission path to degree education. For students, this means predictable criteria and quotas in subjects for competence-based student admission.
Discussions in the opening seminar also pointed out that the alternative routes have a significant societal function. They promote educational equality by removing educational dead ends. For example, a vocational student may continue to university without going to general upper secondary school. When taking a closer look, studying can be seen to prevent social exclusion since it improves employment opportunities and may also decrease loneliness, as technology-mediated learning is often interactive, including cooperation with the teacher and other students as well.
In addition, open university studies promote continuous learning, which is required in the rapidly changing world of work. By completing parts of a degree or tailored competence packages, you can easily supplement your competence faster than by participating in a full degree programme. Open studies, which are usually flexible in time and place, are well suited for employed individuals and enable competence development alongside work.
Alternative Path to University is a higher education development project funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. The project’s work for equal education continues until the end of 2020.
What are the characteristics of a credible admission path to degree studies? This is discussed in the open TRY webinar (held in Finnish) on Friday 14 December at 9 a.m.–12 noon. The webinar is open for all.