Higher education institutions as change agents for sustainable development – Three approaches in practice

group of people meeting

The roundtable hosted by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) will present three viable lifelong learning approaches that higher education institutions (HEIs) can adopt to respond to wider societal needs, namely the learning city development approach, addressing the learning needs of an ageing society, and community engagement. This session will synthesize findings from a current research project being conducted by UIL that uses case studies to examine initiatives implemented in universities across different world regions. These three themes will serve to initiate an interactive discussion about how HEIs can act as change agents for sustainable development, particularly by following a lifelong learning approach.


The UNESCO WHEC2022 will take place from 18 to 20 May 2022 in Barcelona, Spain, in a hybrid format. It targets a broad range of stakeholders with an interest in higher education with the aim of defining and preparing a roadmap for a new era of higher education systems and institutions. Around 2,000 participants are expected to attend the event in person, with another 10,000 registered online.

About the UIL project on the contribution of higher education institutions to lifelong learning

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong learning (UIL) and Shanghai Open University (SOU) are exploring the role of higher education institutions (HEIs) for lifelong learning (LLL) within the framework of a comprehensive three-year international research project. The project aims to develop a knowledge base on how and to what extent different types of HEIs contribute to LLL; it also examines the role a LLL agenda plays in the transformation process of the higher education sector in response to current societal developments. This comprehensive research project consists of several components, including an extended literature review, an international survey of HEIs, institutional case studies to capture trends and innovative practices, as well as three thematic research projects: (1) the role of HEIs in building learning cities, (2) HEIs’ social responsibility and community engagement, and (3) HEIs role in addressing the learning needs of ageing societies.

Download the programme here.