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Why education really is for life

International symposium at University of Leicester to be told how lifelong learning helps older people cope with modern society and increases their sense of self worth.

A three-day international symposium is to highlight how lifelong learning provides older people with a new lease of life as well as delivering wider benefits to society.

Delegates from around the world are gathering for a meeting of the Council of the International Association of Universities of the Third Age (IAUTA) from 29-31 October.

The University of Leicester’s Institute of Lifelong Learning is co-ordinating the event which will include members from countries as far apart as Chile, China, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the United States of America.

Professor John Benyon, Director of Lifelong Learning at the University of Leicester, said: “Lifelong learning activities help to improve the well-being of older people, and also benefit the whole of society. For example, lifelong learning courses can increase older people’s knowledge and confidence to enable them to stay active and cope with changes in modern society and this brings wider benefits in all sorts of ways. The University of the Third Age does a tremendous job in many different countries and in the UK the U3A is growing fast.

“There is a huge demand for education from people over 50, but government policies appear to have downgraded courses for older people. When I first came into Adult Education 25 years ago, the majority of our programmes were non-accredited courses and the world was not a worse place for that. I will go to my grave saying there is nothing wrong with wanting to learn for the sake of it. Education for education’s sake is a good thing – it enriches the lives of individuals and communities. However, since we are not funded for non-accredited courses we have to make them self-funding which inevitably excludes those who cannot afford the fees and limits the sorts of courses that we can put on.”

IAUTA was founded in 1976 with the aim of encouraging the further development of Universities of the Third Age (U3As) in individual countries and of enabling U3As to share their experiences for their mutual benefit. One of the central tasks of the Executive is to plan and organise the biennial congress of IAUTA.

Its President, Stanley Miller, was a student of the University College, Leicester in the 1950s and became President of the Students’ Union in 1957. He returns to Leicester as the University celebrates the 50th anniversary of the granting of its Royal Charter.

Members will assemble at the University of Leicester on 29 October and, in addition to their business sessions, they will hear about the work of the University and the Institute of Lifelong Learning and will take part in a seminar organised jointly with NIACE on ‘Later-life Learning’.

The international guests will visit Vaughan College, to learn more about its work, and will attend a reception hosted by Professor Robert Burgess, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester. Given the significance of the meeting, and its international dimension, the Lord Mayor of Leicester, Councillor Gary Hunt, will be hosting a reception for the delegates at the Town Hall on 30 October.

Professor Benyon said ‘The Institute of Lifelong Learning is delighted to be hosting this prestigious international meeting and it seems particularly appropriate to be doing this when the President of IAUTA has such a strong connection with our own University and City.’

Ather Mirza | alfa
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