The New Majority: Adult Learners in the University


146 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-88864-097-8




Reviewed by Ross Willmot

Ross Willmot is Executive Director of the Ontario Association for
Continuing Education.


This distinguished Professor of Continuing Education and Higher Education at the University of Alberta has produced another of his timely studies of adult education in Canada’s universities. He is the first to deal in depth with the problem-challenge offered our universities by the emergence of their new majority of adult learners. Government and business pressure to make university courses more utilitarian has made universities resent such intrusions into their autonomy and their traditional role of conserving, advancing, and extending knowledge.

Starting with the history of university continuing education in Canada, Professor Campbell then deals with its rhetoric, its programs and their design and delivery, its organization and policies, and its future. Tables and figures are included. He concludes:

Mutual support between the university and society is a condition of the survival of the university. Certainly, the university cannot neglect its age-old responsibilities in research and scholarship directed at an intellectual elite; but neither will it be permitted to ignore the aspirations of adults who equate lifelong learning with their development or, indeed, survival... The intent of this book is to encourage and facilitate the review by the university of its goals in continuing education and the formulations of policies better to serve its new majority of adult learners... The periodic review and pruning of its continuing education program in consultation particularly with the colleges and technical institutes would help the university institution to achieve a character in its own program consistent with its goals.

Not really dealt with, and deserving similar study by such an authority in adult education, is the role in this field of the Canadian community colleges. By definition and charter and, indeed, by their comparable if not greater popularity, these new community colleges and technical institutes serve their own numerous clientele with no problems of a “traditional role” nature. In the interests of economy if not efficiency, it would seem that the universities should stick to the pursuit of academic excellence in certain professional areas and liberal arts, even with part-timers, while leaving utilitarian para-professional training, community development, and community service to the colleges.


Campbell, Duncan D., “The New Majority: Adult Learners in the University,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 22, 2024,