History of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning

UIL building in Hamburg

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) was founded as the UNESCO Institute for Education (UIE) only a few years after the end of the Second World Wari. Its aim back then: improving relations between people and nations through international understanding. While the geographical emphasis was at first largely restricted to Germany and Europe, the Institute became ever more international in outlook from the 1960s onwards.

And in its work, UIE concerned itself increasingly with educational research: both aspects were reflected in 1965 in its constitution. In the years that followed, the Institute widened its perspective to all regions of the world. Activities for the host country receded ever more into the background, and were ended completely in the 1970s. At the same time, UIE aligned itself increasingly with the priorities of UNESCO, which charged UIE in the 1970s with promoting lifelong education.

In 2006, UIL went from operating as a foundation under German civil law to a fully-fledged international UNESCO institute. This change of legal status was preceded by a name change, from UIE to the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), reflecting the Institute’s long-standing focus on adult learning as well as out-of-school and non-formal education within a lifelong learning perspective.

Through the ages


Education for International Understanding


The first international studies


Crises and reorientation


Lifelong Education


Development of international networks

The 1990s

CONFINTEA and the Diversity of Adult Education


Education for All and the Literacy Initiative for Empowerment


Transition to a fully-fledged UNESCO Institute


Strengthening literacy programmes and launching the Global Network of Learning Cities


Adoption of the Recommendation on ALE and founding of the Global Alliance for Literacy

2020 to present

i Content for the years 1952-2002 is based on the UIL publication ‘Towards an Open Learning World: 50 Years UNESCO Institute for Education’ by Maren Elfert.