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Transforming Higher Education Institutions into Lifelong Learning Institutions

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Higher education institutions (HEIs) have the capacity to foster adult skills and knowledge – this puts them in a strong position to contribute to lifelong learning, which is critical for addressing future challenges, from climate change to transformations in the world of work. A new policy brief by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), Transforming Higher Education Institutions into Lifelong Learning Institutions, provides recommendations on how HEIs can reinvent themselves into places where learning opportunities are available to a wider cross-section of society. 

Teaching and research have historically been the core tasks of HEIs; yet, in recent years, HEIs have begun to address in larger numbers their so-called ‘third mission’, which is to actively promote the advancement of the wider community through cultural, social and economic contributions to society. However, despite their capacities for promoting lifelong learning, as well as the growing acknowledgement of the importance of learning throughout life, many HEIs remain focused on cultivating academic excellence rather than improving access to and participation in educational opportunities.  

Moreover, major disparities continue to exist in higher education despite its expansion and increased accessibility, including those based on gender, age, socio-economic status and ethnicity. UIL’s latest policy brief offers recommendations to address these issues in order to advance a fundamental transformation of HEIs.  

Policy recommendations: How to catalyse transformation  

The transformation of HEIs into lifelong learning institutions affects all aspects of institutional implementation, including national policy environments, institutional commitments expressed in terms of strategies and mission statements, and methods of widening access and participation. It concerns, among other things, the revision of curricula and pedagogical approaches, the establishment of flexible learning pathways, and community involvement. Overall, embedding lifelong learning in higher education is about creating a culture in which lifelong learning is seen as something that encompasses varied forms of education and all types of learners. 

Transforming Higher Education Institutions into Lifelong Learning Institutions proposes 10 concrete policy actions that are necessary to transform HEIs into lifelong learning institutions. These recommendations can serve as a resource and guide for HEIs and policy-makers seeking a more inclusive and holistic higher education system in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Read the full policy brief, Transforming Higher Education Institutions into Lifelong Learning Institutions

Learn more about this subject: 

The role of higher education institutions for lifelong learning