Study renaissance for 17,000 Dutch 'silver-tops'

December 12, 2003

Holland has experienced huge growth in higher education courses for the country's growing population of over-50s, or "silver-tops".

The first course for over-50s opened in 1986 at the University of Groningen and attracted 40 students. Now, 17,000 people with an average age of 65 are attending courses at higher vocational education or university level.

Research by the ministry of education suggests the number could rise to 150,000 in the near future.

Carel van Lookeren Campagne, chairman of Hovo Nederland, a professional network for higher education for older people, said that this generation was generally "well educated, fit and financially strong".

Some 15 institutions offer senior education, focusing on subjects such as philosophy, psychology and history.

Inge Adema, manager of the senior education office at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, said that the over-50s were "super-motivated and sincerely interested".

Hovo Nederland thinks more institutions should invest in staff, accommodation and support for senior education. "Apart from a legal duty, universities have a social task to provide education. If there is a demand, in this case from seniors, institutions must meet the needs," Mr Van Lookeren Campagne said.

He admitted that over-50s' motivation could get on younger students'

nerves.

"Young students want to obtain their credits as soon as possible without being bothered. They don't like it when they suddenly sit among eager students, who want to link up connections, and ask a lot of questions," he said.

But a lack of money has left some institutions reluctant to invest in seniors. University of Twente spokesman Pollus Fornerod said: "We prefer to spend time and money on young, talented students instead of individual entertainment."

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