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Lifelong Learning Research

We undertake a range of research and development activities, at a local, national and European level, which inform our work and also contribute more generally to the field of lifelong learning.

Upcoming conferences

ESREA (European Society for Research on the Education of Adults) Access, Learning Careers and Identities Network 2017, 2- 4 November 2017, University Rennes 2, France

'Exploring Learning Contexts: Implications for access, learning careers and identities'

First Call for Papers: (PDF Document) Further details can be found in this document

Experiencing Higher Education, Transitions and the Graduate Labour Market: The Non-Traditional Student Perspective , 7- 8 September 2017, University of Seville, Spain

Call for Papers: (PDF Document) Further details can be found in this documentFurther details can be found in this document

Previous conferences


ESREA SevilleBarbara Merrill, Centre for Lifelong Learning

The partners involved in this project are:
University of Seville, Spain
The University of Warwick
University of Lower Silesia, Poland
Milano Bicocca University, Italy


The last ESREA Access, Learning Careers and Identities Network Conference in 2013 had the ‘crisis’ as its theme. Two years on the economic crisis, which also has social and political consequences, is still with us and continues to be particularly dominant in the south of Europe. As a consequence younger and older adults are finding themselves in a labour market which either offers no jobs, low paid jobs and/or jobs with zero contracts which impacts on the self, identity and their communities.

New challenges as well as new threats are posed to adult education in such times which could both offer a potential way out of the crisis and an alternative to the dominant stories played out by the economic discourse. Within this framework continuity and discontinuity in learning careers are an interesting dimension to interrogate. In a complex way they can be conceived as two sides of the same coin, not opposite but complimentary and mutually generating and impacting upon the learning career and identity of an adult student. What individual and social choices do these processes involve and what meanings do learners give to them? What disorientating dilemmas do they bring to a person’s biography? The idea of continuity and discontinuity underlies the possibility (or the constraint) for a new personal and work life trajectory which may represent a critical moment in a person’s life. Some adults also actively choose to leave their study before finishing. Although it is a disrupted learning career it may not necessarily be a negative one. What factors at the micro, meso and macro levels come into play?

In a changing world what potential learning spaces – formal and informal- can be identified to encourage adults, particularly non-traditional adults, to learn in ways which are beneficial and positive to them as well as in ways which enables them to challenge the inequalities they experience in society?

Keynote Speaker

Michel Alhadeff-Jones, University of Fribourg, Switzerland and Director of the Sunkronos Institute.

For more information and the call to papers, download the (Word Document) ESREA Conference 2015 document.

erasmus_logo.jpg
Barbara Merrill, Centre for Lifelong Learning

The partners involved in this project are:
Asociacion de Personas Participantes (AGORA), Spain (co-ordinator)
• The University of Warwick
Centro Studi e Formazione Villa Montesca, Italy
European Association for Education of Adults (EAEA)
Danube University Krems, Austria
CIEDT, Amalipi, Bulgaria
Federation of Cultural and Adult Education Associations, (FACEPA), Spain

Edufin is a European project led by an adult education organisation in Barcelona, Spain (AGORA).

Financial markets have become increasingly complex and, in consequence, individuals need to improve their understanding of financial products and services. In addition, individuals today have greater responsibility for their financial well-being. A wide process of financial education is required in order to configure a critical and informed citizenship able to understand and make fundamental decisions on aspects related to the financial system. However, financial education is especially low among certain demographic groups, including young adults at risk. Research shows that most young adults at risk make financial decisions and deal with complex financial products despite lacking basic financial and quantitative knowledge. Moreover, the inclusion of the voices of the young adults is not taken into account when elaborating any curricula on financial education although it is essential to meet the real necessities and demands on financial education and for them to become more active, independent and enterprising. A critical communicative methodology will be used. The project’s main aim is the establishment of a learning curriculum on financial education based on the needs of young adults (aged 18 – 34) at risk on financial literacy.

Erasmus logo
Barbara Merrill, Centre for Lifelong Learning

The partners involved in this project are:
• The University of Warwick, UK (co-ordinator)
Maynooth University, Ireland
University of Algarve, Portugal
University of Seville, Spain
University of Lower Silesia, Poland
Stockholm University, Sweden

EMPLOY is a European project involving six partners and is co-ordinated by Dr Barbara Merrill, University of Warwick.

EMPLOY promotes the enhancement of the employability of students in higher education from a non-traditional background (both younger and adult) through improving the efficiency of transitions into the graduate labour market. With the development of a mass higher education system across Europe the student population has become more diverse by age, gender, class, ethnicity and disability. The issue of employability is a central policy concern of the EU, national governments and a key goal of the Bologna Process (The European Higher Education in 2012: Bologna Process Implementation Report) and there is also emerging evidence that graduate employability is a problem across Europe. This situation has been affected by the economic crisis but at different levels across Europe so that, for example, it is more difficult for graduate students in Portugal to find employment than graduates in Sweden.

Research shows that non-traditional students are particularly affected in terms of graduateness. For non-traditional students the transition into employment often takes longer than ‘traditional students’ and there is the likelihood of entering employment which is below degree level and, therefore, less meaningful. There is also a mismatch between graduate credentials and employers' expectations. The project involves six partners from a range of countries from north and south Europe. We define non-traditional students as including those from low-income families, under-represented ethnic and socio-economic groups, mature students, first generation into HE and people with disabilities.

EMPLOY centrally aims to improve the efficiency of transition into the graduate labour market of those who enter higher education from non-traditional backgrounds, by developing two European toolkits that presents best practice by HEIs and offers guidance to students on improving their employability. This will be achieved by using the voices, experiences and perceptions of participants (students, university staff and employers) through biographical approaches and in-depth interviews to identify best practices, policies and guidelines to be used in two handbooks. One handbook will be aimed at non-traditional students in higher education while the other will be aimed at employers and university staff. The website and the use of social media, such as Twitter and podcasts, will be important in promoting dialogue and outcomes of the project. EMPLOY has a strong dissemination and exploitation strategy to ensure a wide European impact.

The project will offer new insights into the relationship and different perspectives on employability and competences in relation to non-traditional students in HE. Importantly, this project aims to work for a more inclusive graduate labour market for non-traditional students across Europe.


Barbara Merrill, Centre for Lifelong Learning
• University of Lower Silesia, Poland (co-ordinator)
• The University of Gdańsk, Poland
• The University of Warwick, UK
• University of the Algarve, Portugal
Funded by: EDUPRO

This Erasmus + project focuses on developing and implementing the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) rom everyday life experiences, working life and social practices in Poland as part of a strategy to develop lifelong learning within the Polish higher education system. The aim is to integrate RPL and lifelong learning into the practice and structure of Polish higher education by learning from the experiences of other EU countries who have implemented RPL. This will involve analysing the policies and strategies of Portugal and UK in order to build tools for a Polish system of RPL while also allowing them to look critically at their situation through action research and the exchange of experiences in the field.

For more information, download the (Word Document) Erasmus + EDUPRO research project document.

Learning for Career and Labour Market Transitions: Individual Biographies

Barbara Merrill, Centre for Lifelong Learning, Alan Brown and Jenny Bimrose, IER.
Funded by: European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP), December 2011 – June 2013

Using a biographical approach this study looks at how adults are managing transitions at work through learning in a range of educational contexts (formal and non-formal) in a changing labour market. The research is intended to investigate how learning can support workers’ continuing transitions in the labour market, generate a deeper understanding of the many dimensions underlying individual approaches to career transitions and learning; contribute to the development of a comprehensive model that will accommodate the different ways in which learning can support labour market transitions; inform CEDEFOP on the topic of how adult and work-based learning can help people to better manage careers and working-life transitions, in order to set the stage for future analyses and pave the way for policy recommendations at national and European level.

The study examines the different patterns and pathways individuals follow in their career development in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

For more information, visit the Learning for Career and Labour Market Transitions website.

RANLHE: Access and Retention: Experiences of Non-traditional Learners in Higher Education

This three year project began January 2008 and is funded by the EU Lifelong Learning Programme. The overall aim of the project is to examine issues of access, retention and non-completion in relation to non-traditional undergraduate students (young and adults across a wide age range) in higher education on a comparative European basis. It will look at, using biographical approaches, why some non-traditional students assume a learner identity in higher education that enables them to succeed, what this means subjectively, and why some, despite objectively coming from a similar background, fail to complete and drop out.

CLL at the University of Warwick is the co-ordinating partner (Dr Barbara Merrill). The other partners include: Canterbury Christ Church University, UK; University of Goettingen, Germany; University of Stirling, Scotland; University of Seville, Spain; University of Stockholm, Sweden; University of Lower Silesia, Poland; and University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland.

More information is available at RANLHE's dedicated website.

PRILHE: Promoting Reflective Independent Learning in HE 

A Grundtvig adult education project involving eight countries which was co-ordinated by the University of Warwick (Dr Barbara Merrill and Dr Rennie Johnston). The partners were: University of Barcelona, University of Goettingen, Dundalk Institute of Higher Education, University Nova de Lisboa, University of Stockholm, University of Turku and University of Lower Silesia. This project has its own dedicated webpage.

A Lecturers' Toolkit which looks at approaches to promoting reflective independent learning in HE is available either to download from the website or as a hard copy from Barbara.Merrill@warwick.ac.uk. A Student Handbook aimed at undergraduate adult students is also available by contacting Barbara.

Learning in HE: Improving practice for non-traditional adults students 

An EU SOCRATES Grundtvig research and development project which involved seven countries (UK, Finland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Sweden). The aim of the project was to identify the learning experiences and needs of non-traditional adult students in HE through the voices of learners with the objective of improving policy and practice. We were the leading partner (Dr Barbara Merrill). This project has its own dedicated webpage and handbook which can be accessed from the webpage.

SEQUAL 
An EU ESF funded project involving eight UK higher education institutions. Based on an empowering approach, each partner worked with local employers and community groups to understand the complexities of discrimination related to equal access to a labour market that is 'open to all'. Warwick focused on the themes of gender and class. The project was managed at Warwick by Dr Barbara Merrill and Dr Mick Carpenter, Department of Sociology. The University of Surrey is the lead partner.

Valuing Experience from Experience (VaLEx) 

An EU SOCRATES Grundtvig research and development project which involved seven countries (England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Finland and Estonia). The objectives were to undertake a theoretical analysis of existing practices and principles underpinning APEL to develop a pedagogical model of APEL for learners who are socially excluded. The Centre for Research in Lifelong Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University is the lead partner and the project at Warwick was led by Dr Barbara Merrill.

Higher Education in Further Education 

A number of projects undertaken for HEFCE and others, in collaboration with partners from NIACE, City College Manchester, Sheffield Hallam University and University of Sheffield (Dr Russell Moseley).

The impact of OCN accredited provision
An evaluation for the LSC and NOCN of the role of credit-based OCN provision in increasing flexibility, ensuring and enhancing quality, facilitating progression and widening participation (Dr Russell Moseley and Dr Stephen Hill).

The impact of Foundation Degrees on the student experience 

This project focuses on the impact of Foundation Degrees on students and the student experience of learning as well as the extent of integration between academic and work-based learning.