Lifelong Learning in Europe
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Lifelong Learning in Europe

National Patterns and Challenges

Edited by Ellu Saar, Odd Bjørn Ure and John Holford

Combining qualitative and quantitative methods in a wide-ranging international comparative study, the book explores how far the EUs lifelong learning agenda has been successful and what factors have limited its ability to reshape national adult and lifelong learning systems. The chapters also look at adults’ participation in formal education, what they see as the obstacles to taking part, and the nature of their demand for learning opportunities.
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Chapter 1: Lifelong learning: national policies from the European perspective

John Holford and Agata Mleczko


Two decades ago, an influential article lauded the European Union (EU) as ‘the most successful example of institutionalized international policy co-ordination in the modern world’ (Moravcsik 1993, p. 473). A few years earlier, in 1988, Jacques Delors – then President of the European Commission – had claimed that about 80 per cent of the socio-economic legislation in EU member states stemmed from the EU’s treaties, policies and legislation (Wallace et al. 2005, p. 3). Since then, the EU has grown – from 12 member states and 350 million people, to 27 member states comprising over 500 million people. The hubris which accompanied this growth was of a piece with the so-called ‘end of history’: the collapse of the Communist governments of Central and Eastern Europe and the apparently inexorable onward march of globalized markets. By the time the European Council met at Lisbon in early 2000, the EU’s optimism embraced not only continued expansion, but a new currency (plans for the euro were far advanced), a new constitution, and ‘a new strategic goal . . . to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion’ by 2010 (CEC 2000).

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