Higher Education and Lifelong Learning in the 21st Century: Policies and the Current State of Realization in Europe
Higher education in the 21st century is continuously confronted with new challenges and changing conditions in every conceivable dimension. Institutions have to adapt to societal challenges such as globalization, demographic changes and rapid technological change. At the same time, they have to cope with the introduction of competition mechanisms and economic thinking patterns. The simultaneity of a massive increase in student numbers in most western societies over the last decades and shrinking public budgets creates further tensions. Not only has higher education to take into account labor market needs but also the education of responsible citizens. Another task assigned is the creation of social equity. Research and innovations are further important core responsibilities of higher education institutions.
In 21st century Europe, higher education institutions are regarded as crucial in the creation of the knowledge society and economy, and lifelong learning plays a major role in achieving these goals of the ‘Europe of Knowledge’. For decades, lifelong learning has been a globally debated issue which complements the range of tasks of higher education. It is anything but a new topic (also see Teichler in this volume), however, it combines and renews issues which have been on the higher education agenda before.
When looking closer at the concept of lifelong learning it becomes obvious that it is rather blurry. The term ‘lifelong learning’ refers to a wide range of concepts and is not restricted to the pure meaning of learning across the lifespan. Even if we narrow it...
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