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A Further 900,000 Euros for Socio-Pedagogical Research Project on Accessible Universities: Ways out of the Career Dead End

2018-05-22 Every year, far more candidates apply for the part-time BA course ‘Social Work for Educators’ at Leuphana Professional School than there are places. The high quality of the Bachelor's programme is guaranteed, among other things, by the accompanying research of Professor Dr. Angelika Henschel's team. Now, the successful research project ‘KomPädenZ Potenzial’ (E-Difi-Ducation potential) is entering its second funding phase.

They are almost always female, hold vocational training qualifications, and have usually attended many advanced CPD training courses: Nevertheless, higher career paths are often off-limits to educators. “With our course offering, we wish to point ways out of the career dead end to this highly motivated occupational group” says Andreas Eylert-Schwarz, coordinator of ‘KomPädenZ Potenzial’. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the second project phase with over €900,000. The team led by project manager Angelika Henschel has conducted studies with various target groups in social economy over the past three and a half years and has developed certificate courses, which, among other things, are intended to ease the path to university for educators and other social work specialists. These courses will be offered again in the coming months. “Educators possess a high professional competence level. Sometimes, however, there are inhibitions about going to university,” explains Angelika Henschel. And this, even though a Lower Saxony regulation grants all educators of that state access to higher education on the basis of their vocational training, even if they do not hold a higher education entrance qualification.

The certificates ‘Action competence in social work’ and ‘Communication in pedagogical teams and project management’ are primarily aimed at this group. In the first project phase, employees and employers were asked about their needs and the certificates were developed following a scientific evaluation. The researchers faced the double challenge of designing certificates that would prepare the participants to start a course of studies, and be credited as part of such a course, as well as be recognised as stand-alone certificates benefiting professional practice. “Just as one can decide to study after the courses, one can of course also choose not to,” says Eylert-Schwarz. The important thing is that there is a choice at all.

Making use of vocational skills

A further certificate validating a bridge course directed towards for example occupational therapists or social assistants will give even more interested individuals from social-work vocations the possibility to study social education at Leuphana. The bridge course teaches parts of the contents which are credited to the educators as competences acquired in their work and vocational training. All formats aim at recognising or using parts of existing vocational skills and experience towards the study programme. “Teaching on this course is also an enrichment for the lecturers, as they can enhance their theory with the participants’ practical experience” says Angelika Henschel.

All project priorities have in common the central cross-cutting task of ‘Gender Mainstreaming and Diversity’. Nationwide, about 15 percent of nursery school teachers are male, yet there are hardly any women in management positions in the field of social education. With a college degree in their pocket, that could change. “The desire to do something new can arise especially at a later vocational phase. We had a participant who clearly said: ‘Even for the last ten years of my career, it still pays to study’,” reports Angelika Henschel. A further course, which was developed as part of the project and will be tested for the second time next year, is therefore also aimed at women with a desire for further qualification in the area of ‘managerial tasks in social work’. It qualifies female specialists for duties, such as personnel management, personnel selection or gender and diversity management as managerial tasks. Recognition of acquired qualifications or experience for a later part-time social management course of study opens up further career options for the participants.

Participation is still free of charge

It is also important to Angelika Henschel and her team to ensure that education is fair and equitable. Not every region has a university or college. Therefore, the research and development project KomPädenZ Potenzial also relies on cooperation with educational institutions in rural areas. Over the next two and a half years, the programmes will be evaluated and improved in practice. “Participation in the courses is still free this year and next. Afterwards, however, the certificates are to be included in the curriculum of the Professional School and thus become subject to a fee,” explains Andreas Eylert-Schwarz. 

The research and development project ‘KomPädenZ Potenzial’ is part of the federal/state competition ‘Promotion through Education: Accessible Universities’, aimed at increasing the social openness of universities and in particular promotes concepts for part-time study and lifelong learning.

Author: Marietta Hülsmann. Translated by Beatrice Goutfer