Midlife programs move to Europe – as longer lives rethink a center stage | Popgen Tech


The idea of ​​taking time to reflectively transition into the second half of life and careers began as an American idea. The concept, which was born at Harvard more than a decade ago, has since spread to ten other American universities. Now it is moving internationally with two programs to start in the UK and Switzerland, at Oxford and St Gallen universities. As it spreads, each school designs approaches that reflect the culture, values ​​and communities of their respective institutions. The differences are fascinating and should soon provide a menu of diverse educational offerings (and budgets) for midlife transitioners everywhere.

Oxford’s next horizons

After several years in preparation, delayed by Covid, Oxford launches its Next Horizons program in January 2024. If you are interested, hurry. Applications close soon, this coming January 8thst. In contrast to the year-long programs offered at Harvard and Stanford, Oxford makes a 6-month, January to June intensive program, consisting of two 10-week terms. It also makes the program less than half as expensive as its leading American counterparts, at £30,000 pounds.

The familiar components and questions of other midlife transition programs remain at its heart, driven by a cohort-based community of experienced leaders in an inter-generational student sea:

  1. What’s next for me? Personal exploration and reflection.
  2. What’s next for the world? Engagement with the world’s biggest challenges and how Oxford’s leading thinkers are addressing them.
  3. What’s next for me in the world? A chance to reconnect, to shape the impact you want to make…next.

“We aim for mid- to late-career participants with expertise in any field,” says deputy director Ashley Walters. The goal is to give busy, successful people “time to think, explore and reinvent.” Core sessions will explore themes of legacy, purpose and profit, inequality, intergenerational relationships and change and uncertainty.

Each participant will be assigned an academic advisor, as well as a younger ‘Buddy’ for intergenerational exchanges, and “encouraged to pursue their own thing, which is very much rooted in the academic nature of Oxford,” says Walters . Just like little tutorials with faculty and frequent collegial discussions over dinner.

Next Horizons is anchored at Harris Manchester, a college founded in 1786 already dedicated to adult learners. The principal, Jane Shaw, a longtime Oxford professor, spent several years as Dean of Religious Life at Stanford. There she was involved in the launch of Stanford’s Distinguished Careers Institute (DCI). Returning to Oxford in 2018, she intended to bring the concept ‘home’ to Oxford – and adapt it to a different cultural and educational context. To do this, Manchester College has partnered with the Rhodes Trust (of the Rhodes Scholarship).

Switzerland’s difference – at the University of St Gallen

Switzerland is a fairly conservative country about accepted generational roles. The public sector still has mandatory retirement ages at 65, and after age 70 people can no longer pay into their pension funds. These are some of the systemic incentives to work longer, which will take some time to catch up with people’s evolving needs and plans. Midlife programs aimed at keeping people engaged and purposeful will have some counter-cultural persuasion to do in many countries.

At the University of St. Gallen, it is the executive education department of the business school that is launching NEXT, a program “where experience meets inspiration.” Flexiblely designed as a modular series of 3-day summits (CHF 5,000 each), each is separated by 6 months of peer coaching, personal guidance and (reverse) mentoring. The summit will showcase faculty as well as practitioners and the program will reach out to engage St Gallen’s 35,000-strong alumni network.

The content and design is aimed at “skilled professionals with 25+ years of experience.” In surveys of potential candidates, response rates were enthusiastically high, as was the appreciation of the content pillars of purpose, community and well-being. The questions underpinning the program lean more towards self-development than those of Oxford and are driven by Executive Education’s lifelong learning principles: just in time, just for me, just enough.

  • What’s next? What is my goal in the future? And how can I build new communities to help make this happen?
  • Generativity: How can I best transfer my skills, knowledge and experience?
  • Wellbeing: How can I reevaluate my approach to health, wealth and wellness?

From June 2023, it will already fill up well, says Patricia Widmer, vice director of open programs. “The goal,” she says, “is to apply design thinking to life.” Participants are likely to be drawn from Switzerland and neighboring Lichtenstein.

As these two very different pioneering programs being launched in Europe illustrate, there are many ways to support midlifers moving towards the 3.rd Quarter of their extended lives. It should be as interesting for universities as it is for older learners. As higher education sees the numbers of traditional, 18-year-old students decline demographically, expect to see a redefinition of what a student looks like—and what they’re looking for. Expect many more programs like this to spread across the continent.

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