EUCEN observatory on Lifelong Learning has been developed by the European University Continuing Education Network (EUCEN) with initial support from the lifelong learning policies unit of the European Commission. It aims at developing Lifelong Learning at European level.
The objectives are to provide an understanding of the major European reforms that are taking place in Higher Education concerning Lifelong Learning.
The observatory provides information on the major European Policies and three Processes for University Lifelong Learning:

1. The Lisbon Process
2. The Bologna Process
3. The Copenhagen Process
The observatory also provides information about 6 important themes:

1. Validation of non-formal and informal learning
2. EQF
3. Learning outcomes
6. Europass
We hope you enjoy it and help us keeping it interesting by sending your opinions and suggestions to the Executive Office of EUCEN.

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Policies and Process

Lifelong Learning Strategy.

The Lifelong Learning perspective and the Lisbon strategy constitute the two pillars of European educational strategy. The Feira European Council in June 2000 asked the Commission and the Member States "to identify coherent strategies and practical measures to promote lifelong learning and make it accessible to all". This led to the publication, in October 2000 of the "Memorandum" (Commission Staff Working Document, "A Memorandum on lifelong learning", on 30 October 2000), followed by a wide consultation process at European level. This led to the publication in November 2001 of a Communication from the Commission, "Making a European Area for Lifelong Learning a reality", and to a Council Resolution on 27 June 2002 supporting this initiative and its implementation (Official Journal of the European Communities, 9.7.2002) with a view to achieving a European area for lifelong learning. Since that time, all documents and papers from the Commission refer to this strategy which has been added to by additional initiatives aiming to foster its implementation. Simultaneously, documents published by member states representatives and stakeholders mirror this growing preoccupation on the part of various actors involved in concrete actions and activities.
Lisbon Process
The Lisbon Strategy or Lisbon process aims to make the European Union "the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion by 2010". It was set up by the European council on March 2000 at the Lisbon Summit. (Conclusions of the Lisbon European Council, March 2000).
Bologna Process
The Bologna Process started with the Sorbonne joint Declaration on Harmonisation of the Architecture of the European Higher Education System signed in May 1998 by the Ministers of Education of four countries (France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom), followed one year later by the Bologna Declaration on 19 June 1999 signed by 29 Ministers responsible for Higher Education ("Joint Declaration of European Ministers of Education, Bologna 1999"). Other countries members of the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe have progressively signed this Declaration and joined the movement.
Copenhagen Process
The Lisbon European Council in March 2000  recognised the important  role of education as an instrument for strengthening Europe's competitive power worldwide ("to become the world's most dynamic knowledge-based economy"). The development of high quality vocational education and training is a crucial and integral part of this strategy.

University LLL
Attention to university lifelong learning (ULLL) in the Bologna process started in a rather weak fashion but has been growing in strength as the primary objectives of the Process have been achieved. The original Bologna Declaration in 1999 had as one of its objectives:  ‘ECTS compatible systems also covering lifelong learning'; and 2 years later in Prague, Ministers emphasised that ‘lifelong learning strategies are necessary to face the challenges of competitiveness and the use of new technologies and to improve social cohesion, equal opportunities and the quality of life.'
However, there was no reference to ULLL in the action points and it remained somewhat secondary to the main concerns of implementing the BMD structure, quality issues and the EHE research area. The Trends Report for the Berlin meeting in 2003 (Reichert and Tauch 2003), not surprisingly, reported very patchy development of LLL strategies at institutional level with significant differences between countries, identifying that the ‘most salient problem is clearly the lack of integration of LLL provision in the general strategies, core processes and decision making of the institution'.
In the Communiqué following the Berlin meeting, Ministers called for the qualifications frameworks that were being developed to encompass a wide range of flexible learning paths, opportunities and techniques and to make appropriate use of ECTS credits.  They also stressed the need to improve opportunities for all citizens to follow LLL paths into and within higher education.  However, the Trends report prepared for the following meeting in Bergen in 2005 (Reichert and Tauch 2005)  had no specific focus on LLL and the short section on ‘the recognition of non-formal/non-academic qualifications' claimed that ‘the topic is part of the wider theme of lifelong learning that has been much neglected so far in the Bologna discussion'.
The subsequent Communiqué from the Bergen meeting seemed to be attempting to redress this imbalance and to be promoting greater attention to LLL: ‘We see the development of national and European frameworks for qualifications as an opportunity to further embed lifelong learning in higher education.  We will work with higher education institutions and others to improve recognition of prior learning, including where possible non-formal and informal learning for access to and as elements in, higher education programmes'.  It stated that over the next 2 years to 2007, Ministers would look for progress in ‘creating opportunities for flexible learning paths in higher education, including procedures for the recognition of prior learning.'  However, the Trends V Report (Crosier et al 2007)   stated that ‘while the rhetoric on lifelong learning has been a constant feature of the policy discussion throughout the Bologna period, action has still to follow' (p64).
EUA has elaborated in 2008 the Charter on Lifelong Learning on the basis of extensive consultation with a wide range of European higher education stakeholder organisations (i.e. Business Europe, EAEA, EADTU, EAN, EI, ESU, ETUC, EUCEN, EURASHE and FEDORA). EUCEN's contribution with the results of the BeFlex project has been crucial for the preparation of this document. The Charter lists 10 commitments for universities and 10 commitments for Governments with the aim to assist Europe's universities in developing their specific roles as LLL institutions forming a central pillar of the Europe of Knowledge.
This Charter was presented by Georg Winckler, president of EUA, to the Ministers responsible for education and training in Europe, at their informal seminar in Bordeaux on the 26th of November 2008. Now the time of implementation has come. A new challenge for universities in Europe.

Adult Education

In October 2006, the European Commission issued its Communication "It's never too late to learn", calling on the Member States to promote adult learning in Europe, which it identified as a crucial element of the European lifelong learning strategy. EUCEN's formal response to this communication. The participation of adults in lifelong learning provision remains weak in most European countries with education and training systems largely focused on young people. To address this, the Commission urged Member States to develop an effective adult learning system and proposed in September 2007 an Action Plan on Adult Learning considering five key challenges to be achieved by 2010.


Validation of non-formal and informal learning

The notion of giving credit in higher education for learning that takes place outside the university was first raised by the European Commission in the Memorandum on Higher Education in the European Community (1991), issued by the then Task Force on Human Resouces, Education, Training, Youth:
‘The mainstreaming of continuing education raises a number of essential academic issues which must be resolved. Foremost among these is the question of access and the basis on which continuing education students and mature students generally are admitted to higher education courses. The positive policies which are to be observed in some institutions and which give credit for maturity and for knowledge and experience gained in the labour market would need to be adopted on a wider scale, as would the provision of preparatory courses which supply the basic preparation relevant to embarking on a particular course of higher education.' (p24)
It next appeared in 1995 in a White paper which stated that the identification and validation were an important part of realising lifelong learning, in particular making visible is learned outside formal education and training, recognising a diversity of learning situations and settings and looking for credibility and authenticity of such learning.
This orientation was confirmed in 2000 in documents launching the lifelong learning perspective. The Memorandum on Lifelong Learning published by the Commission on 30 October 2000 ("Commission Staff Working Document: A Memorandum on Lifelong Learning") states: "lifelong learning sees all learning as a seamless continuum from cradle to grave". First Experiments. Common principles. European guidelines. Inventories. Initiatives and practice.


The first mention of a European framework of qualifications for higher education appeared in the Berlin Communiqué  in September 2003. "Ministers encourage the Member States to elaborate a framework of comparable and compatible qualifications for their higher education systems, which should seek to describe qualifications in terms of workload, level, learning outcomes, competences and profile. They also undertake an overarching framework of qualifications for the European Higher Education Area (EHEA)". Process of adoption, What is EQF, Resolution of the European Parliament, EQF and ULLL, Problems emerging.

Learning outcomes

The notion of "learning outcomes", has been in use for several years in UK, but has appeared more recently in the European landscape, first in the vocational education and training sector and is now moving progressively into all sectors, in particular into higher education. In the early stages of the European educational strategy, greater significance in the European rhetoric with the launch of debates on Europass, on the European Qualification Framework, on the Common Principles for validation of non formal and informal learning or, more recently, on ECVET.
In higher education, the reflection on learning outcomes was introduced quite early in this process. In 2003, the Berlin Communiqué from the Ministers responsible for higher education stated that: ‘Ministers encourage the Member States to elaborate a framework of comparable and compatible qualifications for their higher education systems, which should seek to describe qualifications in terms of workload, level, learning outcomes, competences and profile". In 2004, the "ECTS user's guide" gave a definition of learning outcomes: "credits in ECTS can only be obtained after successful completion of the work required and appropriate assessment of the learning outcomes achieved. Learning outcomes are sets of competences, expressing what the student will know, understand or be able to do after completion of a process of learning, long or short". Learning outcomes were also at the core of the work of the  Tuning project which defined learning outcomes as "statements of what a learner is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate after a completion of a process of learning". By 2005, the emphasis on learning outcomes was much  clearer in the Bologna Process: in the Bergen Communiqué when Ministers adopted the overarching framework of three cycles for higher education qualifications (B-M-D), they stated that descriptors for each cycle would be based on learning outcomes and competences.


ECTS started in 1989 within the framework of an Erasmus pilot plan involving 145 higher education institutions. It was set up in the beginning as a credit transfer project. The objective was to recognise periods of study abroad, and thus to increase student mobility in Europe. The first pilot plan has been progressively extended. In 1997-1998, 772 new institutions applied for the introduction of ECTS, 290 one year later. What is the Credit System, Key documents of ECTS, Process of implementation, Evolution and debates, ECTS, ECVET and ULLL.


The proposition by the Commission of European credit system for vocational education and training is directly linked to the development of ECTS, to its impact on mobility and on transformation of educational approaches in higher education institutions. On the basis of the conclusions of the report on the "ECTS extension feasibility project", the Commission indicated what could be the next step for credit-based systems. "A new European credit system would increase the transparency of national systems, encourage flexibility in the development of personalised study courses and of joint curricula and facilitate agreements for the mobility of learners, not only between educational sectors in the same country, but also between those of different countries. Credit systems are powerful enabling devices, which aid mobility between various forms of education and training. The application of ECTS to different systems and types of education will facilitate the recognition of learning gained both nationally and internationally" (Erasmus, ECTS extension feasibility project). And finally the Joint interim report from the Education Council and the Commission on "Education & Training 2010" implementation, stressed the new impetus given by the Copenhagen declaration to European cooperation on vocational education and training and underlined the foundations laid by Ministers responsible for VET of a European credit transfer system for VET. What is ECVET? Progress in implementation of ECVET, Debates.


In December 2003, after a consultation of national authorities and social partners, the European Commission introduced a proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council for a single framework for the transparency of qualifications and competences  which rationalises several existing tools for the transparency of diplomas, certificates and competences.
And finally in 2002, the European Forum on the transparency of vocational qualifications was replaced by a technical working group, whose mandate, following what was stated by the Copenhagen Declaration was to develop "increasing transparency in vocational education and training through the implementation and rationalisation of information tools and networks, including the integration of existing instruments such as the European CV, Certificate and Diploma Supplements, the Common European Framework of reference for languages and the Europass into one single framework." Read more about EUROPASS from CEDEFOP. Process of adoption. What is EUROPASS? EUROPASS for ULLL.


was founded in May 1991, during a meeting held in Bristol (UK) with the title: ‘Towards a European Universities Continuing Education Network’. The Statutes were registered in Belgium and the Association was legally constituted in 1993.
The most important activities carried out by EUCEN since 1991 are:

    Organising Conferences (two events per year)
    Developing Policy
    Developing Practices
    Leading and managing European Projects
    Sharing of Results
EUCEN has 198 members in 37 different countries. Its contact with National Networks on ULLL/UCE and other stakeholders gives EUCEN the strength and knowledge that makes it unique of its kind. EUCEN developed this website with the support of the European Comission (DG EAC) during 2008-2009 and has kept it available since then. For more information about EUCEN, please follow this link. Useful Information: European Presidency, Bologna Follow Up group. EU Projects. Contact us.
See also EUCEN's 44th Conference - Border-Crossing as a Viable Choice: Collaboration, Dialogue & Access to HE - Valletta,
EUCEN 43rd Universities’ Engagement in and with Society - The ULLL contribution - Graz
EUCEN 42nd Conference Bridging the gaps between learning pathways: the role of universities -
EUCEN 41st Conference Education as a right - LLL for all
EUCEN 40th Conference From Rhetoric to Reality - Lille
39th EUCEN Conference Lifelong Learning for the New Decade
- Rovaniemi
38th EUCEN Conference Quality and Innovation in Lifelong Learning - meeting the individual demands
Jönköping University
37th EUCEN European Conference Recommendations for universities
36th EUCEN Conference University Lifelong Learning: Synergy between partners
Founding Meeting: UCE Collaboration & Development- England 4-5 May 1991 - Bristol
Promoting Active Citizenship in Europe- Scotland 5-8 June 2008 - Edinburgh
The University as an International and Regional Actor- Germany 29 November- 1 December 2007 - Hannover
ULLL & the Bologna Process: From Bologna to London...- Slovenia 15-17 March 2007
- Ljubljana
32nd EUCEN Symposium/4º Project Forum. France 16-18 November 2006
- Paris
Universities as a driver for regional development - Poland 18-20 May 2006
- Gdynia
30th EUCEN Symposium - 3rd EUCEN Project Forum- Italy 17-19 November 2005 - Rome
From Bologna to Bergen and Beyond- Norway 28-30 April 2005 - Bergen
28th EUCEN Symposium - 2nd EUCEN Project Forum- Lithuania 4-6 November 2004
- Kaunas
Developing Learning Regions "Thoughts to Actions"- Ireland 9-12 June 2004 - Limerick