On today’s episode of the Illumination by Modern Campus podcast, host Amrit Ahluwalia was joined by Jim Gazzard to discuss Cambridge's rich history of 150 years in the field of continuing education, emphasizing the importance of understanding its roots in order to foster ongoing community engagement.
Voiceover (00:04):Welcome to Illumination by Modern Campus, the leading podcast focused on transformation and change in the higher education space. On today’s episode, we speak with Jim Gazzard, who is Director of Continuing Education at the University of Cambridge. Jim and podcast host Amrit Ahluwalia discuss Cambridge's rich history of 150 years in the field of continuing education, emphasizing the importance of understanding its roots in order to foster ongoing community engagement.
Amrit Ahluwalia (00:34):Jim Gazzard welcome to the Illumination Podcast. It's great to be chatting with you. Thank
Jim Gazzard (00:37):You very much.
Amrit Ahluwalia (00:38):So we're recording at the You All RIA conference here at your home institution, Mattingly Hall at Cambridge University. Thank you for hosting this conference, by the way. We really do. Pleasure. Appreciate It's a pleasure. Cambridge's Institute of Continuing Education is celebrating it's 150th anniversary. This is obviously part of, part of that celebration part process, but what are some of the things you and the team are doing to celebrate this, this, this milestone?
Jim Gazzard (01:00):There's been a lot of things. This year we've been really reflecting on the purpose and the mission and what's been consistent throughout. So in February, we had a all staff gathering. We called it our syndication day. So this was when our founders actually approached in, in February of 1873 the university and, and asked for permission to, to form this institute. So we were thinking about why they did that. And it was about universal suffrage and providing education to women and the working classes. It was about the second industrial revolution and actually new factories and industries, but actually needing more skills that who was gonna be the bookkeeper, who was gonna be the manager. So we were thinking about those origins, but we're also going to have a dinner in September at Trinity College Cambridge. So our founders were really radical Victorian progressive people, but they were also fellows of, of Trinity College.
(02:04): So we, we want to spend some time there celebrating them and, and, and recognizing everything they did in between all of that. We've had a student dinner in June which is fantastic to see students and often learning about a history that they didn't know anything about. They joined us as because it was Cambridge and they were interested in their program, but knowing all of the history behind all of that. So, but it's as much looking forward as it is looking back. So that, that's one of the key messages from the hundred 50th.
Amrit Ahluwalia (02:35):Absolutely. And I, staying on the look <laugh> for just a moment, what, you know, obviously, I think anytime anyone from North America is in the UK or or Western Europe, the, the idea of the scale of history starts to really hit homes. You're talking about a 150 year celebration for the Institute of Continuing Education. We recently in Canada celebrated our 150th year of Confederation <laugh> as an independent country. And my, my own undergraduate institution, Queens University, recently celebrated it's hundred 75th anniversary as an as a chartered university. So it, it's, it's incredible to think 150 years ago, a continuing education unit was, was founded. And the roots though, are very similar to what we tend to see in North America around the, the founding of continuing education and the founding of these kinds of departments. Because what, what those came out of was the MERLE Act around land grant and the, the creation of, of extension as how do we get the research of the institution into the hands of people who can, who can put it to practical use, you know getting away from the idea of the university as a place for lawyers and doctors to get their letters.
(03:46):It's more now a place where, where we really serve the community. You mentioned that a little bit in, in, in your introduction. I'm, I'm just curious to learn a little bit more. I mean, how, as, as you've researched the history of, of the, of the institution as you've researched the history of continuing education, how did those roots create the, the culture and the structure that you guys are, are still working with today?
Jim Gazzard (04:07):I mean, you're right, it, this started off as a hyper-local type of educational requirement. There would be you know, civic leaders from Exeter in the southwest of England write to Cambridge and say we want to teach citizens about history. We want to teach them about bookkeeping. And a group of Cambridge academics would essentially be dispatched. And, but what I like about it was, I suppose we'd call it being market led now. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> or being community led, the curriculum were designed by people with academics. It was co-created, I guess as we call it now. And these communities of learning built, you know, yesterday I talked about the University of Exeter, the University of Sheffield, the University of Nottingham. These were groups of citizens working with Cambridge academics that form these new universities. But as well, you know, equally as valued local history groups in east of England talking about, you know, there might be an interest in a church or there might be interested in a historic figure from that area.
(05:17):Can we use an evidence-based to think about <laugh>? And, you know, that, that's so exciting on many levels. I mean, that, that's good evidence-based curriculum design, but really what you are teaching is critical thinking. And what you are doing is you're building communities because people who wouldn't normally study together, work together are, they're in the same place at the same time, and they're searching for understanding. And I think to transpose that to today, you know, I worry about these echo chambers in the newspapers we read, people who look like us, sound like us, share our political beliefs talking to one another in this closed room. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, the whole point of continuing education to me has been the opposite of that. Agreeing to disagree in a civilized way. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> agreeing to disagree based on evidence, not shrieking at each other and shouting at each other.
(06:09):So I think a lot of that we carry forward and we carry forward in a, on an open university basis, selective universities like Cambridge and many others are about whether you were in the right place at the right time when you were 18 or 19, yes, at the right high school marks, you'd been, well, your family life had been stable. But what happens if you didn't have that? What if you were ready at 25, 35, 65, 85? What if you want to change? And so I, I think this is about unlearning, relearning. I think it's about career change. And so there, those are the kind of things that actually are consistent. And it's been about opportunity, but however that student defines opportunity. It's not necessarily about becoming a lawyer or a doctor or then many of our students move into professions and change career. But it's, it's as much about helping your children or grandchildren with their homework and being, and, and we've seen that through covid is, is, is, is is that real desire parents, grandparents, guardians, seeing their children learn at home, and then thinking, actually, my own educational experiences weren't that great. How do I get reengaged? So that sweep of history, I think is, has been quite consistent.
Amrit Ahluwalia (07:24):Well, and it's fascinating too, because, you know, to a certain extent, when you think about institutions like Cambridge, and you know, you and I both know Nancy Coleman well, and brands like Harvard, it, these aren't necessarily brands that would suggest a level of openness or a level of, of community engagement. They, they have, they carry a weight to them. Yeah. But the work that each of your divisions are doing is, is very much trying to combat that. So I'm curious, you know, how do you actually go about ca combating this, maybe misperception in the community especially, but, but across the country and, and now globally is as, as universities start to expand their reach around what the brand of Cambridge actually means when it comes to continuing education, online education and, and open enrollment.
Jim Gazzard (08:12):I mean, what I love about the brand of Cambridge is its plurality. It can mean on one level Nobel laureate in how we do d n A sequencing, but it also means it's this open university. I, I think there is a tension because that the, the brand is seen as selective. The brand is seen as research led. So often we have to do a lot of outreach and a lot of explanation as to who we are. And, and we do see a lot of students with imposter syndrome, but imposter syndrome is our problem. It's my problem in terms of how we make Cambridge more accessible, and we have to get the messaging clearer. So, so, you know, we, we, we make sure that students feel that there's this welcomeness. We're here as a, as a peer group. So I think Cambridge can be projected in, in so many different ways.
(09:06):But, but yeah, the brand is powerful. It's a convening brand. But we also have to disarm and discharge the brand is as one, and making sure that students perspective, students know that, that this was the world's first open university. And people from all walks of life, all backgrounds have studied here successfully. And the most powerful thing of all is they then go on to be our advocates in our champions. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And it's amazing. You know, you'll be sat at a meeting in London or New York or in Australia, and somebody will stand up, you know, sometimes Cambridge will be criticized, but, you know, elite and elitism. And somebody will stand up and say, well, actually, I studied at Cambridge. I didn't have a qualification to my name, but I studied at the Institute of ca Institute of Continuing Education. And it transformed my life, or it transformed the life of my family. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, and, and they can tell the story a thousand times better than
Amrit Ahluwalia (10:02):I can. Well, and that's, you know, it's such an important part of, of what continuing education does. It really does have such an impact on socioeconomic mobility, the capacity to, to break cycles of poverty. All these things are, are core to the mission. But turning our lens a little bit to the, I guess, the consumer engagement part of what we do in, in this particular space no, I, I mean, I, I strongly believe that no part of the higher education ecosystem at this point is free from serving consumers. But in continuing education, the barriers to entry and exit are extremely low. The competitive landscape is fierce. And, and as we just mentioned, global, how do you ensure that the brand of Cambridge is replicated or mirrored or, or felt in every phase of, of a learner's engagement with the institution? And, and I guess to a certain extent, where do you have to make trade offs when it comes to delivering that, that, on those expectations?
Jim Gazzard (11:01):Well, you're right. I mean, we want to make this open. We want to make it as affordable as possible. You know, we, we have what we think is the most generous bursary offer in, in the whole of the sector. So we, we can lower some of those barriers. But as you know, a a a lot of adults the barrier isn't necessarily money, it's time. But it also, it's the, so what, what am I gonna be able to do differently? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I could sit in this history class or this molecular logic class, or this architecture class, but what difference is it gonna make? So I think we spent a lot of time really talking about what is the Cambridge difference? And, and we want our teaching to be yes, evidence led, and we have to be thinking about learning outcomes.
(11:44):And we're highly regulated now in, in the uk and quite rightly so, you know, we must deliver value for money, but we talk about having conversations here that you would never have anywhere else. An environment where we can explore evidence where we can you know, go off piece a little bit mm-hmm. <Affirmative> for the curriculum and, and really ask everybody in the room as we sit round in a circle, we try not to sit in rows, why are you here? What do you want to get from this? And for some students, it's really high stakes learning. It might be about getting there, getting a job, getting a promotion, changing career. For others it might be, you know, they've had their career in medicine or engineering or whatever it may be. And, and this is about a personal passion but it's bringing the resources of Cambridge to bear bringing diverse academic voices, bringing real challenge.
(12:40):You know one of the, the, the great attractions to me of Cambridge teaching is, is, is this contradictory notion. We we're all asked to take stances that we might not naturally. Right. take and, and, and getting outside of your own belief system and, and perhaps understanding the opportunities, the barriers, how it feels to, to, to represent a different voice. So I think that's, that gives, its the Cambridge nurse, but what we have to be really careful about now is actually that consumer experience. Going back to the question is, is it is making sure that we make this easy, you know, we want to, yes, we have to collect data on prospective students, but if we ask them to fill out their information six times, right. No other company in the world would do that. So we're working on that, making sure that we respond in, in the same business day or the next business day, because we know students will en enroll everywhere. It makes
Amrit Ahluwalia (13:37):Such an impact on the buying process.
Jim Gazzard (13:38):Yeah. Finding that balance between what is great. You know, I, I, I believe you in any Cambridge classroom, you will have an amazing intellectual, academic experience, but that wraparound consumer experience we have to build into as well. And that's what we have
Amrit Ahluwalia (13:52):Doing. Well, it's, it's fascinating to think, I mean, how do you start to reflect that inside the classroom experience outside it? Yeah. And I think this is where, as an industry may, we might have fallen short historically, is, you know, the, the fo the orientation to, to be crass the product. Yeah. really puts us in a mind that takes us away from that, that consumer element. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Now I am curious, and, and I I, I wanna take a step back from the institution, a little bit more focus on the space, obviously in 20 20 17 and then carried through the, the following few years, there's been a pretty radical political shift in, in the structure of the uk. I'm, I'm curious how Brexit's impacted the, the state of the higher education space and in Britain, and, and how you are seeing that influence, especially in England. Yeah. the, the way that universities are having to, to, to pivot
Jim Gazzard (14:46):How long have we got <laugh> and I'm, I'm gonna try and, and provide you as a, as, as a proud European, a balanced answer. So let's take some of the challenges first. We have prided ourselves on having international classrooms, both in terms of faculty and students. And I think it has had a negative impact on the number of European Union students here. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, we don't have a differential fee for European students in continuing education. But even so, I think the reputation of the United Kingdom has, has been damaged as an outward facing collaborative nation. I think on very practical levels, you know the how we in an environment like this we need chefs. We, we need receptionists. And, and, and it's been very difficult, I think, to actually create that, that broader environment.
(15:45):Our European Union colleagues who worked at the Institute of Continuing Education have brought professionalism, have brought different voices, and have made many of our international students feel at home. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> on the plus side. And I use this as a, in a very caveated way. I think it's made the UK government really think about where it's at in terms of skills, how we build new generations of technical, vocational professionals how we build or rebuild a, a functioning economy. So the apprenticeship levy that was introduced in 2017, we've been involved with that. We have courses around policing around architecture that's been very interesting. I think it's brought some more inclusive, diverse classrooms. The lifelong loan entitlement, which will be introduced, we're told in in 2025 I think has many positives in terms of reopening student financing, which has been a barrier to everyone.
(16:48):So, so I think Brexit has forced the government who, to be honest, this government and its predecessors going back to, to Blair and Brown, have fixated on young people going to campus based university, yes. On a full-time basis, that is an achievement. 50% of young people in the UK go now to university, and that should be celebrated. Absolutely. But the unintended consequences that had on more or less destroying our adult education, continuing education in the UK was very, very unfortunate indeed. So I'm hoping now with the levee, with lifelong loan and more of a culture of, we have to keep learning. You know, if we cannot bring skilled labor in for the European Union, which we had done for 30 years, it's been incredibly successful. We've gotta think about it in different ways. So I'm proud that Cambridge is, is thinking about that. But I'm also proud that we're reaching out to the European Union and, and still saying, look, we are an international community, as I've mentioned, we don't differentiate on fees. And, and what we want our curricula that are inclusive. This is not going back to a colonial British sense of, you know, 150 years ago, perhaps. This is about teaching international global skills culture how we all work together. And I think that's what continuing education will continue to be about.
Amrit Ahluwalia (18:14):Well, it's, it's a fascinating shift, you know, in, in I've obviously, I'm fortunate to have had a, an opportunity, or will have an opportunity to present at this conference. By the time this episode goes live, it'll be in the past. But it was an opportunity to, to take a real look at, at the state of the labor market in the UK and, and the state of the university space. And I think one of the things that, that struck me most was how much alignment there is with the apprenticeship model in universities, which in North America is not a common space for universities to play in. And and beyond that, when you look at the funding models, having the lifelong learning entitlement, which you, as you mentioned, expected to roll out in 2025, and from 2027, is expected to create access to stackable programming, to modular programming, to non-credit programming, which is something I think in, in North America, both in Canada and the United States, we've been clamoring for mm-hmm.
(19:08):<Affirmative>. and then beyond that, to have what's expected to be launched in returnship programming for older adults to, to be able to come back and, and, and engage in apprenticeships meaningfully for second or third or fourth or fifth career opportunities, which as you've mentioned, I mean, in, in an environment where we're expected to live a hundred year lives, or we're expected to be working well into our eighties, it becomes incredibly important to find pathways to serve these audiences that, that are historically underserved by the post-secondary institution. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And as, so, I mean, it might be an obvious question, but as you mentioned, the role of continuing education is going to be significant in, in helping universities adapt to this reality. How do you see that that role continuing to shift over the next say, five to 10 years?
Jim Gazzard (19:52):I think this, this, this is the most important area how we define, as you say, underserved. I think we look at it in its entirety. It's still the case that about 98% of global investment in education and training is people aged from zero to 25, but we might have another 75 years on the planet after the concept of the a hundred year life. I, I think is interesting, challenging, exciting.
(20:23):In the uk, the, the, the, the least productive areas of the economy will normally be people in who are age 50 and older. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> because their skills might be out of date, and yet they might now have, as you say, 20, 25 years in the workplace. So I think we have to engage that. And I, I, I find it personally very interesting when, if, if you think of andragogy the round, you welcome everyone to a classroom as a whole person. Yes. Their experience as a parent, a carer, a volunteer you know, all of that is rich learning substrate. You can choose if you wish to look at this negatively or that all the baggage of life and everything that gets in the way we refuse I refuse to look at it like that. Let's bring the richness of that experience in, into the classroom.
(21:15):So, you know, Stanford's open loop model mentioned the a hundred year life lifetime model. So I think we have to have vehicles a across a lifespan. And, and these can be, as mentioned before, they can be professional. They can be about changing careers, or they can just be about getting back into learning and getting confident. We know, we all know when you look at barriers to learning and you can talk about all the disadvantages certain communities face, but one consistent challenge is self-efficacy. Yes. A lack of confidence, a lack. You know, a high school teacher told me when I was 14 that, you know, I would amount to nothing. And I can tell you the number of, of students who walk across our award ceremonies with the Cambridge qualification, and they still talk about that, but they also talk about how they've been freed up by the fact that they can say, I have this now.
(22:13):So I think this is all about communities of learning. I know that's an overused term, but I really mean it actually getting together with peers and talking about how this learning is going, what it means, the successes that you've had, the, the challenges. But, but, but how we, we we grow with those populations. And, and again, the, the final thing I would say with this is the great secret secret about this all is that universities learn more from these groups of people than they learn from us because they talk to us about the communities that they live in. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, they talk to us about the language we use. They talk to us about how our curricular might be more reflective of the lives that they're leading, their heritage their families, communities, their workplaces, and we have to listen. So I, I think the whole point about lifelong learning, returner ships, apprenticeships, the lifelong loan entitlement is we actually get to learn together. And, and for me, my job is to bring the resources of Cambridge to bear on that and make it as open and accessible as possible.
Amrit Ahluwalia (23:19):Absolutely. Well, just to give folks a sense of, of place for where Jim and I are speaking right now, cause you might have heard the door open, it closed a few times. We're using the, the library Mattingly Hall, which Jim was telling me before we started was the historic kitchens and the bread oven of, of the, of the manor house in which we're situated. It really is a stunning space. Jim, as we close if someone finds themselves traveling to, to Cambridge, where do they need to go to dinner?
Jim Gazzard (23:45):<Laugh>? Well, I, I'm down to say Mattingly Hall. We, as, as, as well as being the Institute of Continuing Education you can book to stay here. We have an amazing brigade of chefs. We think a lot about food that's grown in the region. We think a lot about how we reflect the seasons, but also we think a lot about the learning that's going on. And if we're tr teaching classical Greek, or if we're teaching ai the menus might reflect that a a little bit just to see if we they, they could stand out. So but you can join us here at at Mattingly Hall for cup of coffee. You can join us here for a five course banquet. There's gonna be a conference dinner this evening. So hopefully all of the delegates will see.
(24:32): One of my favorite times here in 2019, we hosted the Deans of continuing education meeting here, and it was just you know, fantastic because one of the things in, in my view is continuing education is fueled by good food. We often say we're a cake based organization. <Laugh> a lot of cake. Good for the blood sugar, I'm afraid to report. But the point I'm trying to make is that people learn outside of the classroom by saying, Hey, you know, did you underst stumble that cheetah said, no, me neither. You know, what, what the heck was that all about? So yeah. Yeah, food is a big part of Cambridge.
Amrit Ahluwalia (25:10):Well, and I'll, I'll tell you pers personal review, it's, it's been exceptional. Jim, thank you so much for joining me and, and for taking the time out and, and for hosting the conference. We really do appreciate it.
Jim Gazzard (25:19):It's our pleasure. Thank you very much.
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