Project OPULL – Opening Universities for Lifelong Learning – is undertaking research into ways of opening up higher education to vocationally qualified and experienced target groups in four European countries. Open university models in Germany, Denmark, Finland and the United Kingdom are being investigated in three research phases between 2009 and 2012 with the aim of identifying critical success factors for building open universities for Europe. This paper presents the first phase, in which educational systems in the participant countries have been mapped and interviews with lifelong learning experts undertaken. The current situation and perspectives in each country together with critical issues on how fees and funding influence higher education access for non-traditional students in these countries are discussed and explored through the interview evidence. The initial findings of the first phase of the project indicate that while the long-term effect of an increase in tuition fees for non-traditional students is not yet known, current evidence suggests that other factors such as the recognition of vocational and experiential learning will most likely have an impact on widening participation in higher education.
Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 2011, Vol 13, Issue 1