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Learning for Life – 10 years of empowering global learners


With these words, the Dutch Minister for Primary and Secondary Education addressed distinguished guests, speakers and TU Delft staff at the Learning for Life symposium held on 4 April to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the TU Delft Extension School for Continuing Education. And what a difference ten years can make!

Vice-Rector Magnificus and Vice-President Education Rob Mudde echoed Minister Paul’s remarks that lifelong learning and development are now more essential than ever before, in a world that is changing at a rapid pace and facing major challenges that we must tackle together.

“We believe this is so important that we have made it an official core task at TU Delft – to provide adult learners with quality and accessible learning opportunities for professional and personal development throughout their lifetime with an aim to build a better society together.”

Government Education Agenda

A goal that links strongly with the core of the government’s Education Agenda for Lifelong Learning – and agenda, said Minister Paul, that demonstrates the willingness to take steps – “whether by exploring how educators and the business community can work together even better or by examining the possibility of embedding continuous education in Dutch law”

One example of such government support is the LLO Katalysator initiative whereby universities, colleges and secondary vocational schools are collaborating with business and governments to give a strong boost to continuous education. This has just awarded the Extension School €2 Million in funding to further professionalise the organisation making it ever more demand-oriented and responsive to the needs of employers, workers, and job seekers.

Driven by passion

“Making and sharing knowledge is at the essence of what we do” stated Mudde, “and we have a passion to highlight the power of science, engineering and design as agents of transformation”. With this passion at the core, the Extension School launched as an innovation programme to offer TU Delft’s open and online education across the world. Starting with just two MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) on the platform – it has now reached 4.3Million enrolments worldwide and offers a growing portfolio of over 250 (online) courses and 50 programmes.

“We have greatly expanded our reach and offer learners across the world a wide range of courses in key areas of expertise, focussing on themes of societal relevance such as the energy transition, sustainable cities and transportation and medical technology,” says Willem van Valkenburg, Executive Director. “The portfolio also covers new technologies and developments, such as quantum and, data and digitalisation – whilst equipping engineers with interdisciplinary skills and competencies to be the changemakers the world needs”. 

Global impact

Ten years on, the Extension School is embedded in the University Corporate Office and responsible for actualising the University’s Lifelong Learning Strategy, supporting and collaborating with the faculties and working with industry partners, government initiatives, and innovative educational organisations and consortia.

“We are very proud of the positive impact our educational offer continues to have on the personal and professional lives of millions of individuals – and through them on society at large,” states Van Valkenburg. “And the benefits have extended to and enriched campus education – for example through an 82% reuse of course materials, exciting new teaching and learning approaches, and insights from learner-analytics research.”

With about 35 international awards to its name, the organisation strongly profiles TU Delft as a leader in the field of lifelong learning – a position and outreach that it is looking to expand even further.

Lively discussion and hands-on sessions

The recollection address on ‘how it all began’ by Anka Mulder, President Executive Board Saxion University of Applied Science and former Vice-President TU Delft Executive Board, was followed by the inspiring symposium’s keynote by Norman Jackson, Emeritus Professor at the University of Surrey. Professor Jackson talked about the significant role that educators play at this critical junction in human history in helping people develop in ways that not only fulfil present personal, economic, and societal needs but also ensure that they contribute to a sustainable future beyond their own existence.

A series of breakout sessions on innovations and best practices in lifelong learning led by internal and external experts generated lively discussions – contributing to reflections on the challenges and opportunities face educational institutions and their partners in industry and society in current and future offer of Learning for Life.

The interactive art installation ‘infrared projector’ by the student collective Emergence Delft added a creative layer to the collaborative, inspirational and innovative spirit of the symposium.

Thank you to all who shared in the celebration – and to all our academics, educational experts, industry and educational partners, and our learners.

Here’s to another 10 years! Happy anniversary to you all.

See the symposium page – for the detailed programme, including video, photos, and presentations.

Read more about the TU Delft Extension School or explore our courses and programmes.

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