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Lifelong learning as a key factor in a knowledge-based society

Lifelong learning is an increasingly topical issue – it is one of the European Union’s priority guidelines and, as a foundation for establishing a knowledge-based society, also an integral part of the Lisbon strategy and the Bologna process. The conference entitled "Universities and Lifelong Learning" organised by the Slovenian Presidency featured presentations by some leading experts on lifelong learning. The conference was also attended by representatives of the EU Member States, the Western Balkans countries, higher education institutions, ministries, various international associations and networks, and student organisations.

The two-day conference was opened on 10 March 2008 with a welcome address from Mojca Kucler Dolinar, the Slovenian Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology, who, among other things, noted: “When we speak about lifelong learning as a twenty-first-century educational approach, we often forget that lifelong learning is not a separate process conducted in parallel to formal education; lifelong learning must be acknowledged and incorporated into formal education. In this present-day age of rapidly-changing technologies and organisations, the individual's capacity to learn and to adapt to the needs of the environment in terms of new skills and knowledge is increasingly appreciated. The simple ability to learn is no longer enough,” she pointed out, mentioning, moreover, that the driving force behind the development of Europe are highly-educated, creative entrepreneurs.

The core message of the conference was that these knowledge and skills should be given the kind of public recognition which would further stimulate individuals to continue their education.

Participants at the conference also pointed out that demographic changes and the increased retirement age had changed the outmoded thinking that a person's learning career was over once they had completed their formal higher education. They agreed that higher education institutions should offer education and training programmes not only to the conventional student population but also to all the population groups and to the economic sector. These programmes should be officially recognised in the same way that formal education currently is.

The emphases and conclusions of the conference will be used in future as material for the EU Commission in drawing up documents and will also serve as a basis for debates during the French Presidency. They will also be discussed within the Bologna Process monitoring group.


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Date: 11.03.2008