The view from around Europe

26th September 2003 at 01:00
Lifelong Learning in a Changing Continent. Editors: Osbourne and Edward Thomas

Lifelong Learning in a Changing Continent is a compendium, and an extremely thorough one, of arrangements for the provision of continuing education in the universities of Europe.

It deals with the national overview of 29 different countries (the present member states, the three members of the European Economic Area, and those countries applying for membership of the EU.

The range is from Iceland to Cyprus, Portugal to Finland, under the auspices of an organisation called the European Thematic Network in University Continuing Education.

The book is a reflection of the importance of continuing education for European policy makers. The stated aim of the EU is to become 'the world's most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy within 10 years' (EU, 2000).

Continuing education opportunities are an essential part of fulfilling this high ambition, and Europe's universities will have to play a key role.

The Bologna Declaration of 1999 committed the 29 countries to adopt several crucial measures, including the establishment of a common credit system and the promotion of free movement for students and staff between these countries.

These are to be achieved by 2010. (Remember, Britain is one of the 29. It would be interesting to have a progress report.) I am uneasy about the conflation of 'university continuing education' and 'lifelong learning'. Edward Thomas writes: "in the university context (though not elsewhere) these two concepts have become virtually indistinguishable".

This is a big book, 538 pages, but there seems to be little more than passing reference to further education and its role both as provider and as partner.

Such cross-reference was clearly not part of the brief, but for those of us who believe that we need to redefine post-compulsory education and look to new models of tertiary provision, it is disappointing.

However, for those who need to understand the different national structural arrangements, the specific geographical contexts and the progress towards European policies for lifelong learning, this book will be invaluable. It provides an enormous range of information, and will be a key reference source for policy-makers and academics concerned with (university) continuing education.

Colin Flint

Lifelong Learning in a Changing Continent. ; 538 pp; NIACE; ISBN 1-86201-157-5

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