Research and foresight

UIL produces and disseminates knowledge in the core areas of its mandate through research and development projects, the development and publication of new insights and recommendations in the form of books, policy papers and forward-looking studies, and the expansion of its knowledge base.

research projects

The contribution of higher education institutions to lifelong learning

While the university sector constitutes a huge potential for promoting lifelong learning, its actual contribution remains unclear. Many universities continue to prioritize academic excellence and research with less attention being paid to teaching and providing lifelong learning opportunities to the community. Achieving the vision expressed in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 will hence require a substantial transformation of higher education institutions (HEIs), in particular universities.

To provide guidance to policy-makers and HEIs, UIL and Shanghai Open University (SOU) are conducting a comprehensive research project on the contribution of universities and other HEIs to lifelong learning. In 2021, as part of this project, a publication featuring the analysis of a global survey of around 400 HEIs in cooperation with the International Association of Universities (IAU) was in development, along with a set of seven institutional case studies, a literature review and the survey results on Chinese open universities; these will all be released in 2022. Furthermore, three thematic sub-projects are underway to be featured in a second book publication in 2022.

A word with Jia Wei, president of the Shanghai Open University, People’s Republic of China

How does the Shanghai Open University promote lifelong learning?

Shanghai Open University serves as an important platform for developing a learning society and lifelong education system in Shanghai. The university focuses on serving the diverse needs of various groups of people, making full use of information and communication technology to organize degree, non-degree and community education, providing rich and accessible learning resources and flexible and personalized support services to comprehensively enhance the learning capacities of citizens.

jia wei

On the basis of a three-year cooperation agreement, SOU and UIL jointly promoted research on lifelong learning, developed resources on the topic, and strengthened institutional capacities in the field of lifelong learning worldwide. What are the main achievements of this cooperation?

Our collaboration is progressing well and has led to a number of achievements in the field of lifelong learning globally. For example, the research project on the contribution of higher education institutions (HEIs) to lifelong learning provides a comprehensive understanding of trends and challenges in the engagement of HEIs, including Chinese universities, in lifelong learning since the concept of lifelong learning has developed globally.

Another important contribution is the capacity-building programme for lifelong learning. We have been collaborating with UIL to organize the capacity-building workshop on ‘Strengthening education systems from a lifelong learning perspective’ for education policy-makers and leading researchers from Member States since 2018, and have now held three sessions with 127 participants from 12 countries, further providing support for national policy-makers to achieve the goal of sustainable development in education.

Over the next year, UIL and SOU will build on this successful cooperation. What other main areas do you wish to jointly explore?

On the one hand, we hope to continue to deepen our existing cooperation, for example, in the area of capacity-building, which can be extended from the national level to the city or institutional level, to further strengthen the capacities of administrators, teachers and policy-makers. On the other hand, we also hope to explore cooperation on new topics, such as how lifelong learning can play a role in an ageing society in the digital age, how to promote in-service continuing education and skills training for workers, and so on. I am very much looking forward to it.

Literacy in the Sahel region – A comprehensive study
man reading book
of young people aged 15–24

in the Sahel region are literate

of young people aged 15–24

in sub-Saharan Africa are literate

of young people aged 15–24

worldwide are literate

The current Sahelian educational context calls for an innovative approach to learning, integrating basic skills acquisition and vocational training, and combining traditional forms of adult education with digital pedagogy. This approach could contribute to reducing illiteracy, fostering the economic integration of young people and the empowerment of women, promoting citizenship, and consolidating the peace process in the region. Achieving these goals presupposes a careful needs analysis in order to design and implement effective, multisectoral and sustainable interventions within a lifelong learning perspective.

With the support of the French Development Agency (AFD) UIL completed in 2021 a comprehensive study of illiteracy and literacy strategies in the G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) and some neighbouring states (Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Togo). It focuses in particular on young people, especially young women, who continue to constitute a particularly disadvantaged population group in the Sahelian Zone. The study includes new research on the profiles of the audiences concerned, including displaced populations and refugees, and their needs. The analysis specifically addresses cross-border areas, including conflict zones. It provides key recommendations on literacy programme objectives, content, management, and the overall learning environment.

Migrants and refugees
Migrants and refugees - refugee camp
281 million
international migrants
<26.6 million
<48 million
internally displaced persons
Recognition, validation and accreditation of informal and non-formal learning for migrants and refugees

To facilitate the transition of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) into host societies, UIL is developing a research project on the recognition, validation and accreditation (RVA) of informal and non-formal learning for migrants and refugees. The aim of the project is to foster sensitive policies, operational systems and supportive mechanisms for work, further education and training or active engagement in society that will enable migrants and refugees in the target regions and countries to obtain recognized and accredited qualifications.

As part of the project, UIL and the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) have in 2021 worked collaboratively on an international literature review of the research on RVA policies and flexible learning pathways practices for migrants and refugees. This review aims to contextualize countries’ attitudes towards migrants and refugees, the role and objectives of RVA, flexible learning pathways in relation to migrants and refugees, and the involvement of stakeholders in the design of RVA systems and the inclusion of migrants and refugees. It will be published during the first half of 2022.

Innovative literacy learning and education for refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons

Supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the UNESCO Education Sector’s Section of Youth, Literacy and Skills Development and UIL are preparing a global landscape study entitled ‘From radio to artificial intelligence: Review of innovative technology in literacy and education for refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons’.

The study will explore and document effective policies, measures and practices using technologies to support literacy learning and skills development among refugees, migrants and IDPs. In addition, it will present promising case studies from around the globe at the systemic, institutional and programme level, and draw up a set of evidence-based policy recommendations for those who plan to design holistic educational interventions for these vulnerable populations. The study will be published in 2022.

Learning Coin: Open education opportunities for out-of-school migrants, Thailand
woman in thailand on tablet
Norwegian Refugee Council Youth Programme, Jordan
young migrants learning on desktop computers
VHS Lernportal, Germany
screenshot of web page for VHS Lernportal programme, Germany
Rising on Air, West Africa
2 africans speaking into microphones

Curriculum globALE: Competency Framework for Adult Educators

Curriculum globALE supports the professionalization of adult educators. By providing cross-curricular approaches, it is a unique reference framework for the training of adult educators which can easily be contextualized to national and regional environments. Curriculum globALE improves not only the standard of adult learning and education programmes but also the capacities of countries to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

Curriculum globALE: competency framework for adult educators

Snapshots of Learning Cities’ Responses to COVID-19

This publication profiles 13 learning cities’ strategies to gauge the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. It demonstrates the responses by learning cities to the pandemic across five themes: city planning, continuation of education, culture, equity and inclusion, and public health. Case studies of UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities members in Africa (Cameroon), Asia and the Pacific (China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Korea), Europe and North America (Finland, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) and Latin America and the Caribbean (Brazil, Chile, Mexico) are showcased to offer a general overview of initiatives, a look at the processes involved in developing them, and a summary of outcomes and challenges.

Snapshots of Learning Cities’ Responses to COVID-19 cover

Guidelines on Open and Distance Learning for Youth and Adult Literacy

Open and distance learning (ODL) is helping providers to explore alternative methods and ensuring continuity of learning and skills development throughout life among youth and adults in times of disruptions to literacy provision. This publication highlights steps for planning and implementing ODL in youth and adult literacy programmes and introduces the technologies commonly used in ODL, ranging from radio and television broadcasts to e-learning and online learning methods. It also includes practical ideas and resources, among them a planning checklist and a comprehensive list of open educational resources that can be used to incorporate ODL into literacy programmes.

Guidelines on Open and Distance Learning for Youth and Adult Literacy cover page

Integrated Approaches to Literacy and Skills Development: Examples of Best Practice in Adult Learning Programmes

This compilation showcases 21 adult education programmes that demonstrate promising approaches to integrating literacy, life skills and vocational skills in various country contexts around the world. Such integrated approaches have great potential to enhance the relevance and quality of adult education programmes and increase adult learners’ motivation in enrolling in such programmes. The programmes featured offer new pathways for adult learners to develop and practise new skills in context, improve job prospects, and contribute to a change in the trajectory of their professional and personal lives. The compilation also offers insights into how integrated learning programmes can be designed and implemented.

Integrated Approaches to Literacy and Skills Development: Examples of Best Practice in Adult Learning Programmes

Transdisciplinary Perspectives on the Futures of Lifelong Learning

Following an interdisciplinary consultation on the Futures of Lifelong Learning, insights were not only captured in the UIL report Embracing a Culture of Lifelong Learning, but also in 10 individual expert papers which further reflect on the concept of lifelong learning, its policy relevance, and innovative potential to build inclusive and sustainable learning societies. This collection of papers covers diverse research fields such as demography, education, philosophy, public health, neuroscience and sociology. In doing so, the collection also acknowledges transdisciplinarity as a crucial principle of future knowledge production and problem solving in an increasingly complex world.

Transdisciplinary Perspectives on the Futures of Lifelong Learning

Education in Prison: A Literature Review

To identify current trends, progress and challenges in prison education at a global level, UIL published two literature reviews on the issue. The publications recognize the variety of understandings of the concept of education in prison and aims to provide a renewed approach to the subject, as well as to build a solid knowledge base. The reviews survey the literature in English and French, focus on some of the unique characteristics and challenges concerning the provision of education in prison, and document what remains an unserved domain of education and penal policy.

Education in Prison: A Literature Review

Inclusive Lifelong Learning in Cities: Policies and Practices for Vulnerable Groups

This publication presents conceptual frameworks for inclusive learning, good practices in learning cities, and recommendations for the future. It is based on research papers prepared for the fourth International Conference on Learning Cities, which took place in 2019 in Medellín, Colombia, under the theme ‘Inclusion – A principle for lifelong learning and sustainable cities’, and marked a transition between the learning city conferences of 2019 and 2021.

Inclusive Lifelong Learning in Cities: Policies and Practices for Vulnerable Groups

Issue note: Promoting Technology-Enabled Education and Skills Development in Rural and Remote Areas of Central Asia

UIL, the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, and the UNESCO Almaty Office jointly published this issue note, exploring the realities and challenges of technology-enabled education in the four Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It provides key information about the context of education in the rural areas of these four Central Asian countries, the ICT infrastructure and connectivity, the quality of education and skills development, and the impact of COVID-19 on education and lifelong learning.

Issue note: Promoting Technology-Enabled Education and Skills Development in Rural and Remote Areas of Central Asia

International Review of Education – Journal of Lifelong Learning

Edited by UIL, the International Review of Education – Journal of Lifelong Learning is the world’s longest-running journal of comparative education. It publishes peer-reviewed research articles on lifelong learning policy and practice with a special focus on adult education, non-formal education and literacy, and formal education, viewed through the lens of lifelong learning.

Five issues of the journal were published in 2021, including a second double special issue on ‘Education in the age of COVID-19’. Article downloads doubled throughout the year, clearly demonstrating the high quality and relevance of the journal.

Reasons to be hopeful: Learning and becoming in a time of crisis
New issue of the International Review of Education celebrates Freire
A year (and a bit) of living dangerously
Just published: Second IRE double special issue on education in the age of COVID-19