Non-Traditional Publics in Higher Education: A Needs Evaluation
The Portuguese Higher Education (HE) system is facing major challenges, part of them due to the increasing number of non-traditional publics who are entering, for the first time, in HE institutions. This fact emphasises the new demands and roles asked to these institutions, concerning the openness to diversity, the creation of new opportunities and the focus on equity. In fact, there is a growing awareness related to the diversity of student’ profiles that attend HE, more specifically concerning the presence of mature or non-traditional adult students (NTAS), over 23 years old (Law-Decree 64/2006), in HE. Within this context, the authors developed a study at the University of Aveiro (Portugal) which is focused on their particular characteristics, motivations, expectations and difficulties. The authors collected data from questionnaires, motivation letters and semi-oriented interviews, in order to elaborate a first characterisation of NTAS from different perspectives, and to evaluate their particular needs. Therefore, with this study the authors intend (i) to reflect about the “widening participation agenda” that is increasing in Portugal; (ii) to reveal the major characteristics of NTAS enrolled at the University of Aveiro; (iii) to evaluate their particular needs, based on the findings; and, consequently, (iv) to discuss possible proposals to put into practice in this particular Portuguese context.
Keywords: Lifelong Learning, Non-Traditional Adult Students, Higher Education, Needs Evaluation
Dr Ana Vitória Baptista
Ph.D Student and Researcher, Department of Didactics and Educational Technology, University of Aveiro
Dr. Isabel Huet
Researcher in Higher Education, Department of Didactics and Educational Technology, University of Aveiro