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Joint Modules and Internationalisation in Higher Education

Reflections on the Joint Module «Comparative Studies in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning»


Edited By Regina Egetenmeyer, Paula Guimaraes and Balázs Németh

This volume places the development of the Joint Module «Comparative Studies in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning» (COMPALL) in the context of international development in higher education and adult education. Based on this framework, the authors discuss the development of the joint module in terms of its institutional and didactical structure as well as participants’ motivation and diversity. The book is divided into three parts: (1) Internationalisation in Higher Education, (2) Internationalisation of Higher Education: The Case of Adult Education, and (3) Internationalisation of Higher Education: The Example of COMPALL.

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International adult learning and education trends reflected through collaborative actions of higher education in research programmes and development initiatives: An evolutionary scope (Balázs Németh)

Balázs Németh

International Adult Learning and Education: Trends reflected through Collaborative Actions of Higher Education in Research Programmes and Development Initiatives – an Evolutionary Scope

Abstract: This paper will provide a short overview of milestone efforts of higher education institutions to open up to the development of modern adult education. The paper will focus on the internationalisation of adult education and its influence on higher education to enhance research and development collaborations for professionalisation.

Short introduction

In an age of instability and a weakening impact of values and discipline, higher education has an enormously difficult role in the development of adult learning and education. Moreover, it has to make use of the potential of international academic collaborations. But this role is still surrounded by lots of challenges and demands. This paper will address some of those demands and challenges in the scope of adult and lifelong learning (Kálmán, 2016). One general issue for higher education institutions in this respect is how to balance the promotion of quality academic work of education and research and the growing demand for social engagement by higher education in association with local and regional stakeholders to promote and enhance adult and lifelong learning. This paper will analyse the impacts and roles of particular phases of modern adult education and, also, the changing missions of higher education in its development.

Why did adult education become important for higher education in its international dimensions? The early modern period (1870s–1920s)

Adult education first became an important issue for higher education institutions in the second half of the nineteenth century, when some leading universities in Britain and Germany formed academically led associations for urban communities in order to introduce higher-­level lectures and related dialogues focusing on skills development for citizens facing emerging social and economic challenges.←93 | 94→ This particular historical era reflected the growing roles of higher education in making modern nations and communities by extending the provision of education to groups of adults previously excluded from formal systems of education. That emerging wave of popular adult education reached the universities and, more particularly, university professors and lecturers, who played a significant role in effective knowledge-­transfer, economic and social modernisation and, consequently, community development (Steele, 2007).

However, one must recognise that the impacts of internationalisation and transnational collaborations, as well as cross-­border adult education movements, moved predominantly those kinds of institutions and organisations that were not rigidly tied up to national contexts and environments. Religious communities, labour movements, and bourgeois formations initiated a great variety of adult education offerings, both formal and non-­formal. They moved across borders in case the learner and community development focus was strongly represented in their values and aspiration, enabling change and development by preparations for the new needs of traditional and new adult learners (Pöggeler, 1996).

The rise and fall of adult education organisations, movements, and institutions teaches us about the challenges of an ever-­changing picture in which the preservation of some particularly solid values and principles towards humanism was affected by having to recognise cross-­sectoral, cross-­cultural and, accordingly, inter-­regional and international influences in order to survive.

The survival of adult education meant and still means having to adapt to the needs and demands of people living in a local or regional environment. On the other hand, we should not forget that despite the many attempts in the promotion of adult education, it could not prevent nationalism and political extremes: fascism, Nazism and communist internationalism. The rise of liberal, democratic, and welfare-­oriented societies was soon pushed aside after World War I, yet it took a decade for antidemocratic forces to take power on the continent.

The birth of modern adult education in international contexts (1918–1938)

British university extension and the German Urania movement clearly built on the principle of extramural knowledge transfer led by academic groups and profoundly helped establish a relatively solid ground for quality improvement in adult education – improvements that were channelled into academic discourses and reflections in the first half of the twentieth century. In the context of education and modern educational science, the teaching and learning of adults became the←94 | 95→ focus of a growing number of researches. Relevant approaches were supported by the results and challenging factors of modern psychology and those of sociology.

The new understanding of adult education was represented, amongst other distinguished scholars, by Lindeman (1926, 1991), Thorndike (1928), and Rosenstock (1926). This indicated the impact of academic cycles engaged in the development of education and growing research activities in educational science using an interdisciplinary approach. The 1920s and early 1930s enabled universities mostly in Western and Northern Europe, but also in some countries of Central and Central-­East Europe, to step forward in adult education-­related research and innovative actions. Those regions in Europe were strongly influenced by modern scientific thinking, and innovative dimensions in the social sciences were clearly reflected in these regions opening up to a liberal mind-­set, collaborative social constructions, and critical thinking. These impacts were collectively channelled into the first aspiration in Britain and the Commonwealth to establish and develop adult education through the Commonwealth Association in Education and Training of Adults (CAETA) in the second half of the 1920s across nations in that community (Duke, 1996).

Efforts in this period to educate and train professional adult educators were relatively isolated and embryonic because academic recognition of adult education as a profession and as a scientific field was at a rather early stage. However, university-­based research activities emerged throughout the 1920s and 1930s in Chicago and New York, soon leading to contacts with some universities in the UK, including Oxford, Glasgow, London, and Manchester. Another influential wave was the integration of liberal adult education into the academic missions of higher education institutions in Scandinavia, such as the cities of Lund, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Turku, and Helsinki. The Scandinavian road of integrating practice with scientific research and development work enabled universities to effectively open up to new dimensions of educational science in order to raise the professionalisation and quality skills development of educators providing planning and achievements in organised adult education (Toiviainen, 1998).

A special trend in developing the professional skills of adult educators was the quality improvement of social work and community development in order to address the needs of masses of people having difficulties in their lives because of migration and immigration, marginalisation, job loss, or broken families because of the negative impacts of World War I. The sector of social work grew rather quickly, reaching a point when national policies on social work organisations employing trained staff were needed. These efforts were also blocked both by emerging political extremism in continental Europe and by the esca←95 | 96→lation of World War II. It did not take too long until social work orientations were embedded in the foundation and rise of andragogy, understood as social work, especially in Dutch adult education – for instance at the University of Amsterdam through the valuable efforts and scientific work of Professor Ten Have and the establishment of the Department of Social Work (van Gent, 1996). The Dutch, later ‘BeNeLux orientations signalled a strong influence of some academic groups to underline the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to theorizing the teaching and learning of adults with regard to socially marginalised groups, connecting this issue with emerging questions of social and economic developments and stability.

Another dimension in the development of adult education by higher education institutions was the systemic development of extramural activities to raise the knowledge and skills of the masses of people who, right after World War I, had to understand the complexity of the economy, society and, especially, the changing nature and contents of labour, vocations, and employment. In the Western world, many universities turned towards combining their traditional educational and research efforts with new focuses, such as special training programmes, public campaigns for democracy, and an understanding of welfare. But such activities were made difficult by challenging social, political, and economic times throughout the 1930s. The realities of that era did not support the spreading of those open, liberal approaches.

The rebirth and short-­lived phase of the welfare state and its impact on modern adult education: New roles for higher education (1945–1975)

Nearly the whole world changed after the end of World War II. In many countries, this period generally meant the rebirth of democracy, humanism, and survival to rebuild countries and to reorganise nations, cities, localities, and families.

Adult education was slowly but surely integrated into national educational programmes. It is also well known that formal education institutions – namely, schools for adults – were established and re-­established from the primary to the secondary level in order to realise a concrete second-­chance form of education for those formerly excluded or those having left schools before completing their studies. Universities also had to start supporting this wave of modern adult education, a fact that was strongly emphasised by the new or reborn welfare-­state and its various formations in Western and Northern or in Central and Central-­Eastern Europe, regardless of political orientations. The shared approach to adult education, contrary to Nazi and fascist regimes, was to open up public, higher, and adult←96 | 97→ education to masses of people. This welfare perspective became a common ground for democratic development in education, although it is also a fact that communist regimes soon moved away from this mutual platform by excluding learners from the abovementioned educational sectors by sex, social status, family background, and so on. Internal phases of this period clearly show that the emergence of the bipolar world made it rather difficult to insist on a common international ground. However, UNESCO was an exceptional body to make members of the international community step forward in the development of adult education. Countries in the Soviet bloc had to take a separate route in welfare orientations and lost most constitutive elements of democracy (Németh, 2013).

It was UNESCO that established an international platform through CONFINTEA in 1949 to indicate the importance of development in adult education and, moreover, to show a direction for adult educators fighting global illiteracy amongst adults. In the following quarter of a century, most countries in Europe, North America, and Japan could achieve relative success in the development of adult education, while the need for professional development and for the implementation of modern information and communication technologies accelerated the involvement of higher education to provide necessary responses to those challenges occurring in and around adult education to reduce illiteracies and to continue modernising adult education with effective theoretical, methodological, and practical innovations (Pöggeler, 1996).

Higher education institutions started to strengthen their activities in the development of adult education by the following dimensions:

opening new grounds for academic discourse and theoretical modelling by founding new departments and institutes to research the teaching and learning of adults;

initiating interdisciplinary research actions to investigate the changing nature of adult education and adult education practices;

responding to governmental calls to develop the skills and methods of adult educators engaged in the development of schools, programmes, and other identical community activities for adult learners;

participating in collaborative actions to extend the provision of adult education through extramural courses in regular and irregular forms of education and training;

initiating local and regional events to collect and share valuable knowledge in the community.

This period, however, was also constrained by the limits of a nation-­state focus and its impacts on the realisation of international recommendations and declarations.←97 | 98→

UNESCOs first real ‘break-­through conference in adult education was in Montreal in 1960, where CONFINTEA II indicated a significant step forward towards systemic developments in adult education. There was a clear commitment amongst UNESCO member states that they should have a responsibility and a key role in the achievements of CONFINTEA goals and aspirations (UNESCO, 1960; Németh, 2015).

It is also obvious that the first internationally driven analytical work to investigate education, involving several university partners, was launched in the second half of the 1960s in order to understand post-­work education and its relation to time (Ottesen & Eide, 1969).

Likewise, UNESCO invited some distinguished researchers and developers from several universities to work on its literacy campaigns and thematic conferences in and after 1965. This era was rather challenging because of many regional conflicts, wars, and tensions, which lead to more difficulties and obstacles. But the biggest obstacle for adult learners to overcome was the economic crisis of 1973, which put welfare programmes and reforms in education on hold and re-­oriented adult education and the roles of higher education directly towards new methodologies, towards non-­formal and informal directions, resulting in less attention being paid to school-­based adult education. In the Federal Republic of Germany, this period was reflected in the introduction of more laws in adult education and structural planning to move adult education closer to non-­formal grounds, calling for training programmes based on labour market needs (Nuissl, 2000).

Still in 1972, UNESCO directly geared up the role of higher education in the development of adult education and through its CONFINTEA III declaration at its Tokyo world conference. (UNESCO, 1972). The declaration gave a clear signal that adult education needs the professional input of universities in order to reach a better performance in learning through quality education. Unfortunately, most governments of Western democracies thought that they should move most of their development funds from education to training programmes because of the impacts of the economic crisis and because of obvious technological changes affecting industries, agriculture, and the service sector, too.

The appearance of the OECD in the world of adult education also indicated a shift in the traditional roles of adult education at the beginning of the 1970s. UNESCOs famous Faure Report (Faure-­UNESCO, 1972) and the mind-­boggling papers of Lengrand and Husén about understanding lifelong education were very influential (Lengrand, 1972; Husén, 1974) in their educational dimensions, reflecting the fact that a new era would have to start. But higher education institutions also indicated that many of them had come into a crisis period and were←98 | 99→ looking for new dimensions in their educational and research focuses. It is not at all a surprise that the Faure Report demonstrated how much the language and the topics of policy may influence educational thinking and the way the problems of the sector are understood.

It is one of the key argument in this paper that it was the crisis period of the early 1970s that made the sector of education, and higher education as part of that sector, respond to new needs of society and the economy by designing new and complex majors in order to educate and train professionals as adult educators, trainers, and mentors helping adults to achieve quality adult learning in challenging learning situations.

Another factor that accelerated professionalisation in adult education was the emergence of critical thinking, which considered the problems of education a result of overestimated beliefs in institutional constructions, the loss of learner-­centred approaches and, as a rewind perspective, the devaluation of humanistic principles. We should recognise that the critical voices of Illich, Freire, and later of the Club of Rome (Illich, 1973; Freire, 1970; Club of Rome, 1979) resembled the rejection of over-­institutionalised ways of education. The Club of Rome and its learning-­centred paper, contrary to programmes, systems and policies, critically signalled unlimited perspectives for learning to open new directions for educational and brain research with a need to rethink the human dimensions and the benefits of education and learning.

Researchers dealing with this period also note that the European Economic Community, established in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome, turned its attention towards education and training and, accordingly, established its Council of Education as part of its Council of Ministers in order to respond to challenges brought on by the crisis. The Council started its activities in 1973 and opened some new routes for European training programmes, such as PETRA and FORCE in 1976, and later initiated collaborative actions amongst the member states of that time. With the participation of Denmark, Ireland, and the UK, several programmes started to fight unemployment, social exclusion, and poverty, and began to raise participation and performance in learning.

This particular political dimension of European integration helped trigger concrete transnational research and development programmes in adult education involving the participation and commitment of some distinguished universities across Europe in comparative studies. One such partnership for developing adult education research was a collaborative action initiated by Franz Pöggeler from Aachen Hochschule and Walter Leirman from the Catholic University of Leuven. They were joined by several other distinguished colleagues from universi←99 | 100→ties across Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Italy. This kind of collaboration helped improve and advance interdisciplinary studies and discourses on both theoretical and methodological problems in adult education and curriculum development.

The term ‘andragogy was also revisited and reconfigured for several reasons. But terminology issues mostly reflected a clear but stormy shift from traditional school-­based adult education towards non-­formal and informal, more concretely, a rather vocationally oriented and training-­centred focus, which started to dominate the international discourse in and after 1973. This was plainly reflected in the development of adult education laws, institutional changes, and post-1973 regulations in most Western and Northern European countries, from France to Finland and from Austria to Ireland.

In the Soviet bloc countries, adult education was still tied to state monopolies and hegemony. However, some countries, including Poland, Hungary, and the non-­aligned county of Yugoslavia, allowed higher education institutions to develop research and professionalisation in adult education under the term of andragogy in the late 1960s and early 1970s (Sewczuk, 1964; Durkó, 1968; Savicevic, 1985) This umbrella term had to unite approaches to adult teaching and learning either on a formal, non-­formal, or informal basis. In those communist countries, universities, although under strict state control, enjoyed relative autonomy in promoting general adult education and vocational education and training for adults, together with cultural and community developments. The theory and practice of adult education was influenced by major international trends in the second half of the 1970s and throughout the 1980s, when communist rule obviously underwent radical changes.

From Nairobi to Hamburg: Major steps of internationalisation in adult and lifelong learning through the involvement of universities (1976–1997)

This period of adult learning and education was greatly influenced by the 1976 UNESCO Recommendation on Adult Education, issued when UNESCO held a special session in Nairobi, Kenya, to demonstrate the need for concentrated action both in terms of fighting illiteracy and in terms of further developing adult education programmes for special groups in adult learning who were marginalised by economic changes, political upheavals, civil wars, or simply conflicts in the regions, local communities, or settlements where they lived (UNESCO, 1976).

This recommendation highlighted the roles of higher education institutions in the professional development and institutional modernisation of adult education←100 | 101→ with an emphasis on research activities to be conducted by universities and other higher education institutions (UNESCO, 1976). At the same UNESCO meeting, the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) was established and became a flagship non-­governmental organisation to coordinate intercontinental actions of aid and development work, together with professional developments in adult education from the developed West and North, geared especially towards the underdeveloped South and East in global perspectives (ICAE described by Németh, 2017).

The UNESCO Recommendation of 1976 and the ‘No Limits to Learning paper of the Club of Rome increased nation-­state attention to the development of adult education and training. In Europe, welfare services were formally extended, but the VET focus and labour market demands successfully dominated policy discourses, in which the OECD became a key player, shaping the actions related to education and training in the European Economic Community. Yet the European Community created a balanced set of programmes for partnership-­based developments amongst national educational systems. The Socrates, Lingua, Comenius, and Tempus programmes were launched in 1987 to promote collaboration between member states and associate members to enhance the compatibility of national systems of education and training with the aim of developing exchanges and mobility among European citizens.

On the other hand, we have to recognise the influence of the special climate of that era, namely, that academic people were still had the power and influence to move adult education research and development focuses towards becoming an integral part of educational and training policy discourses. European and international conferences referred to opening access and opportunities to both traditional and new groups of adult learners and, likewise, to strengthening their social positions through the right to learning. The 1985 UNESCO CONFINTEA IV helped some engaged nations and NGOs to fight for expanding participation in education and learning. The Paris Declaration insisted on the role of universities in leading research and development work in adult education and kept the problem of special groups at the forefront of adult education debates (UNESCO, 1985).

This was a very special period, since nearly all milestone actions happened in Europe, and Europe did make use of this advantageous situation in order to get adult education integrated into educational and training policy planning and programmes. That particular process was formulated by advanced leaders of UNESCO and its Institute for Education (UIE), OECD CERI (Centre for Educational Research and Innovation – both headquartered in Paris), the European Commission (led by Jacques Delors for two terms of office), and the leadership of EAEA←101 | 102→ (European Association for the Education of Adults). Many leading figures of those organisations, especially professional experts working with those organisations, had enough significant academic expertise in research and development practice to be aware of the realities of adult education in different parts of Europe and in different regions of the world.

The European Commission represented not only the educational orientation but also a strong belief in the positive social and economic benefits and rewards of education, especially in the making of a new Europe – a Union to unite Europe to become strong and competitive in a globalised world.

The global context has not only enabled but also forced us to recognise that today we are not talking simply about adult education – we are talking today about adult learning and education. This – a more inclusive way of understanding the collection and sharing of knowledge and skills – makes us reflect on the importance that universities and academic researchers and educators have in raising professional levels and research standards in adult learning and education.

Although the emergence of lifelong learning started with the founding approach of the OECD in 1973 (OECD, 1973), an overall policy perspective was established by the European Union when it chose lifelong learning in 1995 to indicate that lifelong learning should be put into the focus of debate around how to make European citizens engage in learning throughout their lives in order to develop their communities in peace and prosperity (EC, 1995). This orientation was first established legally in the Maastricht Treaty and its focus on quality, accessible, and partnership-­based education and training across Europe (European Council, 1992), and secondly in the White Paper on Education to indicate how Europe could become a learning society (EC, 1995).

At the same time, the European Association of the Education of Adults (EAEA) and its leadership, comprised of some distinguished academic personalities, including Federighi and Carlsen, was pressured by academic groups and universities to raise the quality of professionally managed adult education and to provide collaborative actions amongst civil society groups in adult education and at the universities.

By this time, several university-­oriented groups were actively engaged in the promotion of research and training programmes to promote adult education-­related professional developments and, at the same time, to increase research in adult education. To provide some examples, let us mention that the efforts of Pöggeler and his involvement in the research on the history of adult education with a group of distinguished scholars (e.g. Zdarzill, Siebert, de Keyser, Leirman, and later Jarvis, Fieldhouse, van Gent, Reischmann, Jug, and Friedenthal-­Haase)←102 | 103→ were very influential through the Peter Lang series in Andragogy, Pedagogy, and Gerontagogy. The Dutch-­British-­German research partnership was also strong through academically driven themes represented by Hake, Steele, Marriot, Titmus, and Taylor, who produced the so-­called cross-­cultural studies in the education of adults in the 1980s and early 1990s (Leeds Studies in Continuing Education).

Likewise, Belgian, German, and Austrian universities became strongly involved in developing a curriculum for the education and training of adult educators. Moreover, the rise of this focus could be observed at some influential universities in the UK, Sweden, and Finland, across universities in Estonia and Lithuania but also in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and in the former Yugoslavia, especially in Belgrade, Zagreb, and Ljubljana.

A new Central and Eastern European university partnership started to emerge between university-­based researchers in adult education, which formed the basis for later generations to build on with the help of European funds and exchange programmes. In Central Europe, researchers such as Lenz, Gruber, Kips, Bezensek, Koltai, Medic, Sz. Tóth, Jelenc, Mohorcic-­Spolar, and Krajnc, together with the support of DVV International, and Horn, Hinzen, Filla, and others influenced each other, and most of them were actively involved in the development of adult education studies at universities, action researches, and publications in their home countries. From the mid-1980s until 2014, another influential cycle of scientific discourse was the so-­called ‘Salzburg-­talks in adult education, in which several researchers and professionals with a university background could reflect on their activities in the development of adult education in transnational, national, regional, or local contexts.

National institutes of adult education have also been rather influential in the representation of research and development projects in association with universities in their own national contexts and beyond. NIACE in the UK, DIE in Germany, SVEB in Switzerland, and SIAE in Slovenia initiated projects in research and development and, accordingly, involved many university-­based scholars and researchers with both national and international backgrounds to investigate the theory and practice of adult learning and education.

The Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association (IIZ-­DVV, later DVV International) played a key role in professionalising the field of adult education and, from the early 1990s onwards, helped to develop partnerships with countries in need of modernising their adult education provision and services. In that context, it helped partnerships to emerge not only with adult education providers but also with universities researching adult educa←103 | 104→tion and developing professionalisation in national contexts. Examples of those efforts are described in the organisations publications (DVV International – IPE and AED series).

UNESCOs famous Delors Report from 1996 and CONFINTEA V. in Hamburg in 1997 resulted in preparations for a new era with a special focus on learning and the adult learner (Delors-­UNESCO 1996 and UNESCO, 1997). The Hamburg Declaration and the Agenda for the Future reflected the special role of higher education in the development of quality adult learning and education. The roles of universities were again tied to both lifelong learning and, especially, to adult learning and education. In this respect, university-­based lifelong learning started to mean that universities had to move forward towards a new dimension of education involving a more profound use of ICT, already called for by Arnold in 1991, and towards improving the social dimensions of higher education, for example, in the context of third-­age learning and in the area of community and citizenship development.

This latter aspect became rather influential in Belgian adult education research through the input of Wildemeersch, Baert and their BeNeLux research community, which started researching active citizenship, identity, and governance. Those orientations were channelled into some key European surveys on education and training in governance and active citizenship (Wildemeersch & Bron, 2005; Baert, 2003; ETGACE, 2003 and RE-­ETGACE, 2006 projects).

This kind of collaboration was also active and became much wider in ESREA, the European research society dealing with adult education and its professional development. In the following period, it facilitated university-­led discourses on relevant research topics of the network through conferences, projects, and publications (ESREA website).

Towards professionalisation in adult education: Universities working for quality adult educators in a European project environment (1997–2017)

The newly formed European development programmes in education, Erasmus in higher education, and Grundtvig in adult education enabled some distinguished universities to participate in several research and development projects in order to develop common European curricula for adult education at both the BA and MA levels.

There were two EU-­funded programmes to develop university curricula for the education of adult learning professionals: one in Erasmus, focusing on a European Masters in Adult Education (EMAE), and another in Grundtvig to develop both←104 | 105→ a BA and an MA curriculum for studying adult education (EMAE – Pätzold & Bruns, 2006; TEACH, 2006). The aim of the European Commission was to form a purely university-­based project and a project with mixed partners in order to look into the potential of innovation with regard to theory and practice. When the two projects came to an end, the idea was to merge the useful outcomes of both project into a later project.

It is necessary to mention the influence of specific comparative European surveys on adult learning and education in Europe that the European Commission ordered from Research voor Beleid about several topics, including the development of adult learning professionals (Research voor Beleid, 2006, 2008). There were also some distinguished university researchers who provided research know-­how to provide an overall insight into the conditions and criteria of how to develop the profession of the adult educator with the help and input of higher education institutions with regard to the key competencies of adult educators.

We also have to point out that there have been some other types of innovation to develop non-­academic training programmes for adult education providers and professionals. In this respect, the AGADE projects curriculum and the Curriculum GlobALE programme are significant. (AGADE, 2007; Curriculum GlobALE, 2016) Curriculum GlobALE (CG) is a cross-­cultural core curriculum for the training of adult educators worldwide. It was developed jointly by the German Institute for Adult Education (DIE) and DVV International. In five modules, it describes the relevant skills needed to lead successful courses and provides guidance on their practical implementation (DVV International website).

The development of adult learning and education was rather ambitious after the year of 2000, and the so-­called Lisbon goals clearly reflected those sometimes unrealistic dimensions of European integration. Although lifelong learning was connected to employment and citizenship development, adult learning and education were not given enough time and resources to get effectively integrated into education and training systems. Again, the rise of adult education slowed down relatively quickly when the financial and economic crisis hit Europe in 2008.

While the lifelong learning agenda accelerated significant research activities on specific dimensions of learning (e.g. basic skills, guidance, and counselling), human resources development, assessment and measuring, local and regional developments, ICT and e-­learning, financing, quality measures, and the roles of higher education were also analysed to investigate the changing climate for learning, which was dramatically constrained by new social and economic challenges of migration, mobility, demography, and skills mismatches (Council of the EU 2011; CEDEFOP, 2014)←105 | 106→

In closing this short overview of the evolution of higher education participation in adult education research and development, two specific project-­based efforts must be mentioned. The first one is a recent European project that tried to continue EMEA (). This was the Erasmus ESRALE project (European Studies and Research in Adult Learning and Education). This project was co-­ordinated by TU Kaiserslautern and provided not only a renewed curriculum for a European Masters in Adult Education, it also published three manuals of studies in adult education research and a special series of ESRALE webinars dealing with the theory and practice of adult learning and education across Europe (ESRALE website).

The other innovative endeavour is the European Erasmus+ COMPALL project, which is a combination of studies in a Winter School format and the development of a Joint module involving several member universities. Those are valuable examples of international collaboration amongst universities or partnerships with several types of practitioners, including universities (COMPALL website).

The recent impact of CONFINTEA VI in 2009 in Belém, Brazil, and the influence of the renewed UNESCO recommendations on adult learning and education from 2015 still support the direct involvement of universities in the development of adult learning, because the obvious challenges of skills shortages and illiteracies may involve difficulties and traps when it comes to attaining growth, at least sustainable growth (UNESCO 2009; UNESCO 2016).


In order to expand the roles of higher education in the development of adult learning and education, the conditions of three ‘Ps have to be recognised: place, people, and purpose. After examining the evolution of how great university-­based scholars tried to help adult education get modernised, one may come to the conclusion that university engagement in relevant research and development is beneficial if universities provide a good place for collaborative actions and encourage researchers to engage in such work. A second aspect is people, without whom there is no living place and no foundation for academic work creating an adventurous intellectual climate. And the third aspect is purpose, or in other words, courage, which makes universities a mystical place of scientific advancement. Several recent developments have been collected by UIL in its recent collection dealing with the role of higher education in promoting lifelong learning (Yang, Schneller, & Roche, 2015)

What makes it possible? If we want to get a good answer, we only have to visit the EPALE platform and find lots of inspiring examples of adult learning across←106 | 107→ Europe. Universities can help to develop this further and take their messages to our own localities to understand that learning is just the beginning of a great journey. And, at the same time, we should not forget about our recent European past. The Grundtvig initiative and programme helped integrate adult learning and education into lifelong learning policy thinking both at national and transnational levels, and university scholars, researchers, and students have done a lot to reach its valuable achievements (Lima & Guimaraes, 2011).


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