This account aims to introduce contrasting perspectives on teaching and learning methods, and to detail the growth of new forms and vocabularies of access to learning. As we move towards the new millennium, the development of national, yet diversified, credit frameworks and systems will provide an essential underpinning for the organisational culture that will be needed to sustain the wellbeing and growth of the educational system. These new systems are already being incorporated into the practice of ‘virtual’ education. Lifelong learning has widespread support across the social and political spectrum and its importance can hardly be over‐stated as we seek to maintain competitiveness in a changing world. Increasing knowledge and understanding to serve both the needs of the economy and of individuals to play a major role in democratic life has become an agenda of necessity as well as desire. An open society requires open systems of knowledge. A prognosis for the future is submitted where the significance of part‐time modular and open flexible learning is evaluated in terms of a curriculum rooted in useful knowledge and competences, acquired at different sites of learning, including the workplace. It is argued that modular structures, using the potential offered by credit accumulation and transfer to different institutions with different missions, can transcend and transform the learning opportunities for students in a mass system of higher education which is rapidly becoming part of a global market economy and society. Continuous lifelong learning involving its key features of open access, recognition of learning wherever it takes place and the growth of new learning networks and partnerships, is at the conceptual heart of the development of the virtual university.
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