Arne Carlsen

Former Director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning

Mr Arne Carlsen was Director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) from June 2011 to June 2017, where he led UIL’s work in fostering lifelong learning in UNESCO’s 195 Member States. His career demonstrates a long-standing commitment to adult and continuing education.

Achievements at UIL

To ensure that citizens have the necessary skills for life and work in the twenty-first century, we must adopt a lifelong learning approach to adult literacy, adult basic education, continuing education and training, and human resource development.’ – Arne Carlsen

In his role as Director of UIL, Mr Carlsen worked with a team of outstanding education experts to spearhead research, capacity building, networking and publication on lifelong learning. He initiated a number of high-impact interventions advocating lifelong learning as the main conceptual framework and principle for education reforms in the twenty-first century. These interventions include the International Directory of Lifelong Learning (a collection of lifelong learning policies and strategies), the Global Observatory of Recognition, Validation and Accreditation of the Outcomes of Non-Formal and Informal Learning, the Global Inventory of Regional and National Qualifications Frameworks, and the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities.

To ensure that UIL contributes to UNESCO’s priority focus on literacy, Mr Carlsen initiated RAMAA (Recherche-action sur la mesure des apprentissages des bénéficiaires des programmes d’alphabétisation), an action-research project on measuring the learning outcomes of literacy programme participants. This project aims to help countries develop national capacities to evaluate and monitor the quality of literacy programmes. Starting out with just five countries in 2011, RAMAA has since expanded to include 12 West and Central African countries.

Mr Carlsen was editor-in-chief of UIL’s flagship publication, the Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE), which aims to promote the integration of adult learning and education into national education policy frameworks and development agendas. In addition, he led the coordination of the Sixth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI) and its follow-up processes, which play a crucial role in monitoring the implementation of the Belém Framework for Action.

In 2015, the UNESCO General Conference adopted the Recommendation on Adult Learning and Education (2015), which replaces the 1976 Recommendation on the Development of Adult Education. Under Mr Carlsen’s leadership, UIL played a central role in drafting the Recommendation, a normative instrument that will guide UNESCO Member States in their implementation of adult learning and education.

Mr Carlsen also spearheaded UIL’s learning cities project, which in addition to establishing the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities and the UNESCO Learning City Award, has organized two major international conferences in Beijing (2013) and Mexico City (2015).

As Chairperson of the Editorial Board of the International Review of Education – Journal of Lifelong Learning (IRE), Mr Carlsen shifted the journal’s focus from comparative education to lifelong learning.

Partnerships and cooperation

During his time as Director, Mr Carlsen strengthened UIL’s partnerships with education institutions around the world. For example, UIL’s collaborations with Aarhus University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Hamburg enable students of education and lifelong learning to complete internships at UIL. In addition, UIL’s CONFINTEA Fellowships and CONFINTEA Scholarships give government officials, representatives of civil society organizations, scholars and researchers the opportunity to conduct research at UIL and work closely with the Institute’s staff. Mr Carlsen also established the UIL Research Scholarships on Learning Cities. Mr Carlsen and the President of the University of Hamburg, Prof. Dr. Dieter Lenzen, signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which strengthened cooperation between the university and UIL on research and training activities.

Professional experience

Over the course of his professional life, Mr Carlsen has worked in both the academic and practical fields of adult education. He has experience in general adult education as well as prison education, education for political refugees and education for unemployed people. After a period of teaching in Denmark, he became Secretary-General of the Nordic Folk High School Council. In the 1990s, he was Director of the Nordic Folk Academy in Sweden, which trained leaders and teachers in adult education from the five Nordic and three Baltic countries. He subsequently became Vice-Rector of Education at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, and Founding Chair of the ASEM Education and Research Hub for Lifelong Learning, a network of 40 universities from Asian and European countries. Mr Carlsen was Executive Director of the International Alliance of Leading Education Institutes (a global think-tank for education policy) and Chair of the University Consortium that managed the Erasmus Mundus Joint European Master’s Programme in Lifelong Learning: Policy and Management. He has been a visiting professor at universities in China, Malaysia, Romania, Lithuania and Germany, and an honorary professor in universities in Russia, India and Hungary.


1990MA in Philosophy, Aarhus University, Denmark
1981Scholarship at the Sorbonne Institute of History and Philosophy of Science, Paris, France
1979BA in French, Aarhus University, Denmark
1977BA in Philosophy, Aarhus University, Denmark
1973Leadership education in the Danish Army, Denmark


Closing the Gap: Opportunities for Distance Education to Benefit Adult Learners in Higher EducationCarlsen, A., et al. 2016. Closing the Gap: Opportunities for Distance Education to Benefit Adult Learners in Higher Education. Hamburg: UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, International Council for Open and Distance Education, and Study Portals.
Unlocking the Potential of Urban Communities: Case Studies of Twelve Learning CitiesCarlsen, A. 2015. Foreword. In R. Valdes-Cotera et al., eds., Unlocking the Potential of Urban Communities: Case Studies of Twelve Learning Cities. Hamburg, UIL.
Action Research: Measuring Literacy Programme Participants’ Learning Outcomes. Results of the First Phase (2011–2014)Carlsen A. 2015. Foreword. In: M. Bolly and N. Jonas. Action Research: Measuring Literacy Programme Participants’ Learning Outcomes. Results of the First Phase (2011–2014) Hamburg, UIL.
The Role of Higher Education in Promoting Lifelong LearningCarlsen A. 2015. Foreword. In: J. Yang and C. Schneller, eds., The Role of Higher Education in Promoting Lifelong Learning, UIL Series on Lifelong Learning Policies and Strategies No. 3. Hamburg, UIL.
Action Research to Improve Youth and Adult Literacy: Empowering Learners in a Multilingual WorldCarlsen, A. 2015. Foreword. In: H. Alidou and C. Glanz, eds. Action Research to Improve Youth and Adult Literacy: Empowering Learners in a Multilingual World. Hamburg, UIL.
Building a Learning Society in Japan, the Republic of Korea and SingaporeCarlsen, A. 2015. Foreword. In: J. Yang and R. Yorozu, Building a Learning Society in Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore. UIL Publication series on Lifelong Learning Policies and Strategies, no,3. Hamburg, UIL.
 Carlsen, A. 2014. Adult Learning and Education: A UNESCO Perspective. In: CAEL’s Forum and News 40th anniversary edition, Visions for the Future of Adult Learning, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
 Carlsen, A. 2013. A New Deal for Education: Lifelong Learning for All. Orientation of lifelong learning development in Southeast Asia. In Report of 47th SEAMEO Council Conference SEAMEC 47, 19 to 21 March 2013, Hanoi, Viet Nam.
 Carlsen, A. and J. Yang. 2013. Lifelong Learning for all in China: Progress, Lessons Learned and the Way Forward. From Programming to Action--Selected Experiences from Asia and Europe. In: Bildung und Erziehung, vol.66, No.4. December 2013, Cologne, Weimar, Germany, pp. 155-174. Article also published in: H. Hinzen and J.H. Knoll, eds. Lifelong Learning and Governance. From Programming to action-selected experiences from Asia and Europe, Ventiane, Lao PDR, DVV International.
International Review of Education (IRE). Special issue: The Future of Lifelong LearningCarlsen, A. 2013. Introduction. In A. Carlsen and G. Hadad. Guest eds. International Review of Education (IRE). Special issue: The Future of Lifelong Learning. vol. 59, no. 3. Hamburg, UIL.
 Carlsen, A. 2012. Foreword. In D. N. Aspin et al. In: Second International Handbook of Lifelong Learning, vol. 26, part 1, London, Springer.
 Carlsen, A. 2012. Demographic Developments in the South and North: Challenges for Lifelong Learning. In Journal on International Research in Education and Development Pedagogy - ZEP Zeitschrift für International Bildungsforschung und Entwicklungspädagogik) Ludwig University, Munich, Germany, 35, pp.4-8.
 Carlsen, A. 2012. Lifelong Learning, an Opportunity for All. In the Report of 26th Annual Conference of the Asian Association of Open Universities the Open University of Japan, Chuba, 16-18 October. (Abstract of the keynote).
 Carlsen, A. 2010. Lifelong learning and the socio-economic context of education for sustainable development: A new role for the university. In N.A. Lobanov and V.N. Skvortsov, eds., Lifelong Education: Continuous Education for Sustainable Development. Proceedings of International Cooperation, Vol. 8. Saint Petersburg: Leningrad State University n.a. A.S. Pushkin University.
 Carlsen, A. 2010. European lessons to be learnt from the ASEM Lifelong Learning Hub and from Confintea VI. In K. Popovic, ed., 10 ani de dezvoltare europeana in eductia adultilor. Realizari si provocari in atingerea obiectivelor Lisabona 2010. IREA Institutul Roman de Educatie a Adultilor. Universitatea de Vest din Timisoara.
 Carlsen, A. 2010. European Master’s Programme in Lifelong Learning. In S. Medic, R. Ebner and K. Popovic, Eds. Adult Education: The Response to Global Crisis, Strengths and Challenges of the Profession. Belgrade, Serbia.
 Belanger, P. and Carlsen, A. 2010. International Council for Adult Education (ICAE). In R. Arnold, S. Nolda, and E. Nuissl, eds., Wörterbuch Erwachsenenbildung. Bad Heilbrunn: Julius Klinkhart.
 Carlsen, A. 2009. Lifelong learning --a light at the end of the financial tunnel. Interview in International Alliance Quarterly, vol. 3. Copenhagen, Danish School of Education. http://www.dpu.dk/site.aspx?p=13506&newsid1=8736
 Carlsen, A. and Green, I. 2007. Framtidens strukturer för vuxenutbildning (Future structures for adult education). In Framtidens kompetenser - och hur vi utvecklar dem Competences of the future - and how we develop them). Finland, Nordisk Netvärk för Vuxnas Lärande.
 Carlsen, A. and Green, I. 2007. Kompetence, konkurrencedygtighed og bæredygtig udvikling i Norden Competence, competitiveness and sustainable development in the Nordic countries). Nordisk Nätverk för vuxnas lärande, 2007, http://www.nordvux.net
 Carlsen, A. 2006. Developing e-Learning Professionals. Asia-Europe Colloquy on University Co-operation? E-Learning for Higher Education: Challenges and Opportunities. Seoul, Korea National Open University. Comprehensive version published as a CD-ROM.
 Carlsen, A. 2006. Cooperation Between the ASEM Countries and the EU in Education. Journal of Lifelong Learning in Europe - Lline, 2.
 Andersen, H. L. and A. Carlsen. 2006. Rapport om universiteternes arbejde med kompetence- og kvalifikationsbeskrivelser - En kortlægning af kompetencearbejdet på et udvalg af universiteter og fakulteter. Report on the work of universities with competence and qualification descriptions - a survey of the competence-work at a number of universities and faculties). København: Ministeriet for Videnskab, Teknologi og Udvikling.
 Carlsen, A. 2005. Weiterbildung gilt in Dänemark als öffentliche Aufgabe Continuing education and training is considered a public task in Denmark. Prekär, Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft.
 Carlsen, A. 2001. International Council for Adult Education. In R. Arnold, S. Nolda, and E. Nuissl, eds., Wörterbuch Erwachsenenpädagogik. Bad Heilbrunn: Julius Klinkhart.
 Carlsen, A., L. Broe, U.M. Drewsen, and L.H. Spenceley, 2001. Case Studies of ICT and Organisational Change, OECD/CERI ICT and the Quality of Learning Programme. The Danish University of Education.
 Carlsen, A. 1999. 11 glossary contributions. In P. Federighi, ed., Glossary of Adult Learning in Europe.  Hamburg. UNESCO Institute for Education.
 Carlsen, A. ed., 1999. Grundtvig and Europe. Copenhagen: Gunbak Paperbacks.
 Carlsen, A. 1999. Adult Learning and Civil Society for all. Journal of Lifelong Learning in Europe - Lline, 3.
 Carlsen, A. 1999. Samspillet mellem folkeoplysning og det civile samfund (The correlation between liberal adult education and civil society). Uddannelse, 8.
 Carlsen, A., Garcia Carrasco, J., Federighi, P., Nuissl, E., Papaioannou, S., Sargant, N., and Schäfli, A. 1998. Adult Education and Learning in Europe - Evaluation of Projects within Socrates. Frankfurt/Main.



Arne Carlsen
Former Director of UIL

Arne Carlsen LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/arne-carlsen

Director's blog

Recent posts:

21 November 2016

The added value of literacy and adult learning in contemporary societies: some conclusions from GRALE III

4 July 2016

Hope of transforming our world