The University’s central initiative on contract education is now getting underway. New business developers are on their way into the strengthened organisation that is to administrate the education.
“If we succeed, we will need to employ more teaching staff”, says Bo Ahrén, pro vice-chancellor responsible for external engagement.
LUCE, the division in charge of contract education, is being reinforced and there are plans to move it into the Research, External Engagement and Innovation Division, FSI. The reinforcement is intended to reach potential clients beyond the region and even internationally.
“So far, we have sold contract education mostly to public authorities on the international market – but now we hope also to reach companies and other global organisations”, says Bo Ahrén.
However, it is not a question of selling education at whatever price. There are ethical aspects to take into account in dictatorships, for example, and Bo Ahrén does not see earning money as the primary goal for investment in contract education.
“Instead, we want the main motivation to be to meet the major need for professional development
that we know exists, especially from business and industry. It is a strategically important investment from our side and part of lifelong learning. We have both the expertise and the teaching staff required.”
Another hope is that successful contract education will show results in the rankings.
The University management also wants all faculties to take part in contract education to a greater extent. So far, according to Bo Ahrén, there has been a lot of emphasis on the Faculty of Engineering and the School of Economics and Management, not least through the EFL foundation (see article). Their Executive MBA programme, launched in the autumn, was cancelled in the spring, because it was considered to be a contract education programme and therefore should be offered under the central control of the University.
According to Bo Ahrén, contract education is education that leads to academic qualifications, which the EMBA usually does, but since the EFL foundation does not have the right to award degrees, the participants only received a diploma from the foundation and not a degree certificate from the University.
“I believe it will be better for the course participants as well, if they obtain academic credits as they should and it becomes clear that the study programme is offered by the University”, says Bo Ahrén, who hopes that the EMBA will gradually pass over to the School of Economics and Management.
The investment in contract education is expected to be completely self-financing. As the education is to be offered within the framework of the University teaching staff’s regular employment, and most of them already work full-time, new appointments are to be expected. They will be paid for by the revenue from the study programmes offered. LUCE already has a turnover of SEK 75 million, a figure that is expected to rise.
The University taking central control over contract education does not affect the University staff currently engaged in secondary activity outside their own employment – insofar as they are not working specifically with contract education that could be offered by the departments.
“Secondary employment is encouraged in principle within our duty of external engagement”, says Bo Ahrén, but he thinks there may be a grey area between what is and what is not contract education. In borderline cases, employees should turn to their department or to the now extended support function for LUCE for advice.
Bo Ahrén also points out that the University aims to increase the qualifying value for teaching staff of working with contract education. On the national level, a project involving Vinnova is underway, concerning the qualifying value of various external engagement assignments.
FACTS – LUCE
LUCE is an acronym for Lund University Commissioned Education and an office with 18 employees within External Relations. There are plans afoot to move the unit to the Division for Research, External Engagement and Innovation by the new year. They deal with all contract education at LU insofar as they draw up contracts with clients and invoice them. LUCE then forwards the money to the department that provided the contract education.
Externally, they offer a number of open courses which are searchable for professionals looking for continuing professional development and they can also tailor courses and programmes to clients’ needs. Internally, they offer support and service to the departments who want help with course development and/or practical arrangements concerning their contract education.