APEL.Q Case studiesAustria APEL.Q case study in education

Austrian Academy of Continuing Education’s (wba) role in professionalizing adult educators


The Academy of Continuing Education (wba) was founded in 2007 by the Cooperative System (an association of Austria’s ten major umbrella adult education institutions (KEBÖ) and the Federal Institute for Adult Education) with the aim to professionalize and improve the quality of adult education in Austria. wba validates the competences of adult educators according to defined standards set down in the so-called ‘qualification profiles’. On the basis of the qualification profiles, wba submits and recognizes relevant competences and awards two different qualification types. While the certificate confirms basic competences in all four fields of adult education, the diploma focuses only on the specific field of adult education in which the candidate is working (either teaching, guidance/counselling, educational management or librarianship and information management).

To obtain a wba certificate, the following competences must be acquired:

  • Educational theory
  • Didactic skills
  • Management skills
  • Counselling skills
  • Librarianship and information management skills
  • Social skills
  • Personal skills
  • General optional modules (foreign languages or ICT skills)
  • Attendance at the certification workshop
  • 500 hours / at least 1 year of practical experience in the field of adult education

The wba diploma is aimed at those who specialize in one of the four areas of adult education and demonstrate practically applicable experience and theoretical knowledge. To be awarded the wba diploma, candidates must:

  • prove all the required competences
  • write a theory-guided, work-related thesis
  • pass the final oral exam
  • attain 400 hours / 4 years of practical experience in the field of adult education

Procedures and processes

0. Prerequisites

Candidates must have completed vocational education (e.g. an apprenticeship) or possess a school qualification above the compulsory secondary school level. They must be able to demonstrate hands-on experience in the area of adult education.

1. Status quo evaluation

After registration and payment of the fee, candidates have access to the wba login area and their personal online portfolio. They upload relevant evidence (e.g. attendance certificates for further education courses, university degrees, school leaving certificates, confirmations of work experience etc.) to their online portfolio and send this information to the wba. After approval by the accreditation board, candidates receive a detailed evaluation that lists the competences already acquired and the ones not yet fulfilled. Candidates can then either opt for the wba-certificate or end the recognition process.

2. wba certificate ‘Certified Adult Educator’

The candidates meet with their personal wba advisor to clarify which requirements towards a successful qualification as a certified adult educator have already been fulfilled and which are still missing. Together, they devise an education plan and the candidates subsequently acquire any missing qualifications. The wba advisor provides support regarding the selection of appropriate offers. When all remaining requirements are obtained, candidates attend an assessment, the so-called ‘certification workshop’, which includes a multiple choice test on educational theory, a presentation of the current work context, role plays and pair-work, a group exercise etc.). After participating successfully in the assessment and completing all required competences, the wba certificate is awarded. Candidates can now opt to apply for the wba diploma.

3. wba-diploma ‘Graduate Adult Educator’

To obtain the wba diploma ‘Graduate Adult Educator’, candidates must specialize in one of the four areas of AE: teaching and training, educational management, counselling/guidance or librarianship and information management. Compared to the wba certificate, the wba diploma has a much stronger focus on theoretical issues and evidences basic skills in academic writing: the candidate must write a work-related thesis and two book reviews. The thesis is discussed in a final oral exam, known as the ‘Colloquium’. After the candidate completes all required competences and passes the final oral exam, the wba diploma is awarded.

Outcomes and ways forward

wba graduates have, in general, a deeper insight into AE and better chances on the labour market, as both the wba-certificate and the wba-diploma are widely recognized within Austrian AE. Several evaluation studies conducted by wba, IHS and the University of Klagenfurt between 2010 and 2015 showed high levels of self-confidence acquired by candidates through the certification and graduation process.

Nearly 74 per cent of wba candidates are female. 47 per cent are between 40 and 49 years old, 21 per cent are aged 50 or older. In terms of educational background, 80 per cent of the candidates have an upper secondary school leaving exam, which provides general access to higher education. Fifteen per cent of candidates come from an immigrant background.


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