Learning in tiny Ljubljana

19 August 2002
WELL-TRAVELLED though they are, it's not often that UCT's academics get to pack their bags for a conference in Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia, but you knew that...). Director of UCT's Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, Tony Saddington recently spent some time at a conference in one of Europe's smallest capitals.

Saddington is chairperson of the International Consortium for Experiential Learning (ICEL), and it was in this capacity that he visited the lesser-known city (it has 260 000 inhabitants). "Experiential learning is increasingly recognised internationally for its lifelong impact on both individuals and groups," he said. "The conference title Experiential learning: cultural and ethical dilemmas, reflected the issues of diversity in learners and this was addressed in papers from places as far afield as Sydney and St Petersburg."

In addition to giving a short address at the opening plenary, Saddington gave one of the conference's six keynote addresses: Branches and twigs: Experiential Learning's (hi)story and future. He also presented two workshops, one with Diana Kelly of Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine in London, with whom he will co-chair ICEL for the next two years.

"Situated in central Europe, with only a tiny coastline on the Adriatic, Slovenia is developing its links with the outside world and the hosting of this conference by the old established University of Ljubljana was an important academic initiative."

During his stay, Saddington met with the President of the Slovenian Senate, Tony Hrovat, for discussions on education, experiential learning and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). "This readiness to take note of UCT's research and experience in education in South Africa for reconstruction in Europe is recognition of the University's ability to contribute to the Old World as well as to Africa." He added that the academics at the University of Ljubljana hoped the talks would help them access funding for their work on RPL.

Saddington has attended all but one of the ICEL conferences since they began in 1987, travelling to England, Australia, the United States and New Zealand (he missed India), and now Slovenia. It is not the most exotic place he has visited. "I thought it would be, but it was not unlike a mixture of Germany and Italy," he said. "The capital has a wonderful, friendly vibe and is filled with art and culture. It is divided into the Old City and the New; the Old is filled with wonderful character buildings dating back 300 years."

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