From Georgine Weertman - Groningen, Netherlands

1. Groningen (175.000 inhabitants) is in the province of Groningen, which is in the northern part of the country, about 2 hours by car from Amsterdam. The name of the organization is Senioren Academie HOVO (higher education for elderly people) in Groningen en Drenthe. Besides Groningen, we have a program in another, smaller town, to the south east of Groningen: Emmen (in the province of Drenthe). The organization is a not for profit foundation, but professionally run, no volunteers. The organization is not subsidized, but is allowed to make use of the university's classrooms.

2. We had in 2004 (Groningen + Emmen) 1583 enrolments in the courses (mostly ten-weeks), 2424 in lectures, 369 in lecture+excursions, 32 in travels, 48 in seminars with a group of German seniors from the university of Oldenburg in Germany, in research programs, 40 in study circles. How many different people were involved is hard to tell. Several people enrolled in more than one activity during the year.

3. We have three programs per year: in the fall, in the winter/spring and in the summer. The fall and winter programs offer about 30 to 35 courses + several series of three to five lectures. Every term the program is completely new. We offer no language courses, since there is a good community college in town that offers those. The meetings are weekly, only the literature courses are every other week, to give people enough time to read. The subjects are very divers (archaeology, cultural history, economy, philosophy, history, religions, musicology, psychology, sociology, writing, theatre, theology, but only some courses in the field of the sciences. The level is academic, since we are connected to institutions of higher education (f.e. the university). We have several history courses, since people seem to be particularly interested in history. In general it mainly depends on the subject whether people choose a certain course.
Half of all the courses and lecture series are given by one teacher, the other half are given by several teachers, each week another, all scholars in that particular field, who often come from other universities in the country, and even from the Flemish part of Belgium. In these courses people also get together in discussion groups, led by young university students. This works most satisfactory to both sides; the seniors and the young students learn from each other.
The fee for a ten week course is ? 192,00.

4. I am the planner of the programs here and have not had time to take part in the courses myself, but incidentally. As I am going to retire in another half year, I am looking forward to be able to take part. Everyone is quite enthusiastic and it always pleases me when people tell me they are happy with the courses, where they not only get to hear interesting things, but also meet with other people of the same interests.

5. My personal message is that more and more elderly people find their way to learning and by learning widen their scope so they will understand and accept the complexity of this fast changing world .