Universities are key to lifelong learning, concludes UIL workshop


universities' contributions to lifelong learning
13 February 2020

On 4 and 5 February 2020, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) hosted a high-level meeting, where the role of universities in promoting lifelong learning was discussed. During the meeting, experts from universities, university associations, along with UNESCO representatives considered the enabling conditions and barriers to universities’ engagement in lifelong learning.



The experts also examined recent initiatives by universities around the world to widen access and fulfil their so-called ‘third mission’, which is to engage with societal needs and market demands by linking their activities to the socio-economic context. Thanks to the attendees’ diverse experiences, it was possible during the meeting to delve deeper into the contributions that universities make to lifelong learning.



Participants at the meeting agreed that, while comprehensive policies and frameworks are necessary to facilitate lifelong learning, it is important to develop institutional networks and partnerships in order to share and promote innovative practices forged at universities. Flexible pathways – as well as flexible learning approaches such as technology-enhanced learning – are key to widening access to universities and promoting more inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.



The meeting constituted one of the first major activities in a comprehensive research project on universities and lifelong learning that will be coordinated throughout 2020 by UIL and Shanghai Open University (SOU). The project consists of different components, including an international survey, which was a central topic of discussion, with the experts providing key input on how the survey should be designed and carried out (the survey results will be available by the end of the year).



In addition to the international survey, which will be conducted in collaboration with the International Association of Universities, a membership-based organization serving the global higher education community, the UIL-SOU project will include extended literature review, case-study research, interviews with key stakeholders, and exploration of diverse topics concerning higher education, such as open universities in China. The final comprehensive report, covering the results of the projects and surveys, will be published in autumn 2021.