Personal, versatile, fit for the future: Regula Stibi, Head of the Continuing Education Centre, discusses what distinguishes ZHdK’s continuing education programmes, what motivates adults to return to university, and what current trends are worth paying attention to.
Yvonne Hachem: What distinguishes ZHdK’s continuing education programmes?
Regula Stibi: Of all Swiss arts universities, we offer the most diverse range of continuing education programmes in the arts, design and art education. We also give students personal advice and support them throughout their studies. Continuing education is about trust. When students enrol with us, they place themselves in our hands to a certain extent. But they can rely on us to carefully match their educational goals and needs to our offerings.
You took over the Continuing Education Centre in 2016. How have its offerings developed since?
The Centre was already well positioned in terms of individualizable programmes when I took over, so I was able to build on a solid foundation. Today, students can enter our programmes from any discipline and continue their education in modular fashion, from low-threshold (online) courses to a CAS (Certificate of Advanced Studies) or an MAS (Master of Advanced Studies). They can also combine multiple programmes. This flexibility is important, especially in view of the hybrid professional fields for which we provide training.
What motivates continuing education students?
This depends on their career phase. Those just embarking on their career will have different needs and wishes to more seasoned professionals. Roughly speaking, we distinguish two motivations: up-skilling and re-skilling. Up-skilling means deepening, expanding or also supplementing one’s professional skill set: a musician pursues training in conducting, a graphic designer expands their knowledge in branding. Re-skilling, on the other hand, means reorienting one’s current occupation: an artist develops a second mainstay in art education, an artist qualifies for a position as a curator. Increasingly, we are also being approached by prospective students who have no initial training in art or design. They are interested in other approaches, and expect to find these at an arts university. That’s why they sign up for one of our programmes.
What are the benefits of continuing education?
It’s a unique opportunity to develop new competences and skills, and to expand one’s knowledge and scope of action. At the same time, it involves a role change: students move from an active professional situation to a demanding learning situation. In continuing education, face-to-face teaching is very intensive, as the number of contact hours is limited. In addition, participants suddenly become part of a heterogeneous learning community, but whose members engage with the same content and have similar interests. Graduates often stay in touch beyond their programme and continue to exchange ideas. The networks that emerge here are valuable in terms of transferring learnings into everyday working life.
What topics and trends influence offerings and programme conception?
Well, there are the big topics, such as digitalization, which none of us can avoid and which is currently causing a boom in design training in particular. Other topics include location independence, which creates alternatives to on-site teaching, or heterogeneous professional profiles, which are diverse and help create several mainstays. The question is: How can people trained in the arts be effective in other professional fields? The keyword is “collaborative arts.” We need to be looking at how arts practitioners can bring their skills into social or political contexts.
What might continuing education look like in the future?
The line between basic training and continuing education will be less distinct. Linear educational trajectories will be replaced by what we are calling an educational macramé. Portfolio learning will gain even further ground. And we will be increasingly considering not only ECTS but also informally developed competences. We ought to consider learning and teaching over an entire life span. We are addressing this aspect in connection with ZHdK’s new major-minor model: both levels, teaching and continuing education, can benefit from greater permeability. ZHdK is taking such considerations into account by merging teaching and continuing education into a single organisational unit as of early 2022. What will remain important? Personal contact, direct exchange, direct feedback and — despite the many digital possibilities — physical location.