News: Lifelong learning is more relevant than ever before

It has been 10 years since the European Universities’ Charter on Lifelong Learning was published. It outlines 10 commitments for universities and governments to support the development of lifelong learning in order to secure what was once referred to as the ‘Europe of Knowledge’. 

The charter, inspired by 21st century learning expectations in a context of globalisation, demographic change and rapid technological advancement, acknowledged that the term ‘lifelong learning’ encompasses first-time education for disadvantaged groups, continuing education, training for graduates and post-retirement opportunities. Notably, it highlights the importance of access to lifelong learning and the recognition of prior learning.

A decade later, this fundamental topic is highlighted in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which call on the world to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning”. It is therefore the right moment to ask ourselves how far European universities have come in advancing this very crucial responsibility and to re-examine the relevance of lifelong learning to better prepare our next steps.

Widening participation

Historically, lifelong learning has played an important role in times of radical evolution or crisis by widening participation to new student groups. Democratic and economic crises following World War I brought women into higher education in the West. 
Posted: 2018-09-12

News: Lifelong learning requires an evolving university

“I am still learning,” Michelangelo reportedly said at the age of 87. He continued to learn, evolve his craft and stay productive until the end of his life. As global life expectancy increases we should all continue to learn, stay productive and evolve our craft – including universities.

People are living longer

The World Health Organization shows global average life expectancy for those born in 2015 at 71.4 years – an increase from the cohort born in 2000, whose life expectancy at birth was 66.4. As you might imagine, life expectancy numbers range widely by country, from a high of 89.5 years in Monaco to a low of 50.2 in Chad, and everything in between. For example, Japan has an average life expectancy of 85, Iceland’s is 83, France’s is 81.8, the United Kingdom’s is 80.7, the United States’ is 79.8, Mexico’s is 75.9, Saudi Arabia’s is 75.3 and India’s is 68.5.

These are all average life expectancies, so roughly 50% of people are expected to live longer than the average, with some expected to live much longer. This has profound implications for individuals, employers, societies – and colleges and universities.
Posted: 2018-09-12

News: Can’t teach old dogs new tricks? Nonsense. Tips for learning later in life


Change, often rapid and disorienting, is today’s norm. Even things our grandparents took for granted – manual typewriters, telegrams, smelling salts, corsets – have disappeared into antique shops and museums. We change jobs and even careers many times in one lifetime. We travel more. It seems like we adapt to new technologies almost weekly.

What hasn’t changed is that human beings need to learn so they can adapt and thrive in new circumstances. Is this possible for older people? It’s common knowledge that children are voracious learners but the famous cliche suggests that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. This simply isn’t true.

As research conducted by my colleagues and I has shown, learning is a lifelong process. It’s also life-wide: we learn in all kinds of situations besides schools and colleges – in our families, workplaces, communities and through leisure activities. And it’s life-deep: it’s about emotions, morality, cultural and spiritual development, not just the intellect.

Posted: 2018-09-12
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