Skip to main content

Professionalisation as development and as regulation: Adult education in Germany, the United Kingdom and India


In this paper, the authors seek to disentangle what they see as contradictory uses of the term “professionalisation” with reference to adult educator development and training (AEDT). They set out to distinguish professionalisation from professionalism, and to identify the locus of control of AEDT in Germany, the UK and India. In these three countries, all of which have a long tradition of adult education, “professionalisation” and “professionalism” are used interchangeably to describe conflicting purposes. The authors aim to identify and critically explore the organisations and policies which control and support AEDT in their own countries using American sociologist Eliot Freidson’s “third logic” model, and drawing on his juxtaposition of “professions”, “the market” and “bureaucracy”. Applying Freidson’s models to the organisations highlights the role of bureaucracy and that where adult education is concerned, national governments, the European Union and aid organisations not only serve bureaucracy but also support the market rather than operating separately from it. While the term “professionalisation” continues to be used to mean professional development, either by adult educators and representative organisations (as in the UK) or by organisations acting on their behalf (as in Germany and India), it is also used to denote regulation and standardisation issuing from bureaucratic institutions and adult education provider organisations in the interests of the market. The authors suggest that Freidson’s model provides a useful tool for adult educators in other countries to reflect on their professional position and to engage in the development of their own professional standards, both in their own interests and in the interests of those they educate.


Professionnalisation synonyme de développement et de réglementation: éducation des adultes en Allemagne, au Royaume-Uni et en Inde – Les auteurs de cet article visent à clarifier ce qu’ils considèrent comme usages contradictoires du terme « professionnalisation » dans le domaine du développement et de la formation des éducateurs d’adultes (DFEA). Ils établissent tout d’abord une distinction entre professionnalisation et professionnalisme, et identifient le locus de contrôle dans le DFEA en Allemagne, au Royaume-Uni et en Inde. Dans ces trois pays, possédant chacun une longue tradition en éducation des adultes, les termes professionnalisation et professionnalisme sont utilisés indifféremment pour décrire des objectifs contradictoires. Les auteurs poursuivent le but d’identifier et d’examiner d’un œil critique les organisations et politiques qui contrôlent et soutiennent le DFEA dans leurs pays, en appliquant le modèle de la « troisième logique » du sociologue américain Eliot Freidson et en s’inspirant de sa juxtaposition de « professions » , « marché » et « bureaucratie » . L’application des modèles de Freidson à ces organisations éclaire le rôle de la bureaucratie et montre que dans le cas de l’éducation des adultes, le gouvernement central, l’Union européenne ou les organisations humanitaires non seulement servent la bureaucratie mais soutiennent aussi le marché au lieu d’opérer indépendamment de lui. Le terme « professionnalisation » continue à être utilisé dans le sens de développement professionnel, soit par les éducateurs d’adultes eux-mêmes et leurs organismes de représentation (au Royaume-Uni), soit par des organismes agissant pour leur compte (en Allemagne et en Inde). Mais il est également employé pour désigner la réglementation et la standardisation émanant des institutions bureaucratiques et des prestataires en éducation des adultes dans l’intérêt du marché. Les auteurs suggèrent que le modèle de Freidson fournit un outil utile aux éducateurs d’adultes d’autres pays, leur permettant de considérer leur situation en termes professionnels afin de prendre en main leurs propres normes, dans l’intérêt de la « profession » quelle que soit sa forme, et de ceux auxquels ils dispensent une éducation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. 1.

    In this paper we take India as our example.

  2. 2.

    For an overview of the German theoretical discourse on professions and professionalisation, see Egetenmeyer (2014).

  3. 3.

    The concept is not uncontested. Julia Evetts (2012) and Linda Evans (2008) discuss it and its efficacy.

  4. 4.

    Named after German mathematician, philosopher and political adviser Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716), Leibniz Institutes are non-university research institutes specialising in a variety of academic fields. In April 2016, their Association had 88 members (

  5. 5.

    A Volkshochschule [literally Folk high school] is an adult education centre offering a wide range of mostly non-academic courses (e.g. computer skills, languages, keep-fit, nutrition and cooking, arts and crafts) in local communities.

  6. 6.

    CAPIVAL is the name of the European project which produced Validpack, a package of tools for supporting the identification, documentation, evaluation and validation of pedagogical competencies of adult educators for the purpose of certification and professionalisation in AE.

  7. 7.

    A quasi-market is one which operates competitively, for example within and between public and private education providers competing for students, but which is dependent upon public sector funding as a source of capital investment and profit (Ball 2008, p. 229; France 2016, p. 88).

  8. 8.

    In 2016, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) merged with the Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion (CESI) to become the “Learning and Work Institute” (L&W).

  9. 9.

    Tata Sons is the promoter of the major operating Tata companies and holds significant shares in these companies. The companies provide products and services which reach into every area of production. Examples include agrochemicals, refrigeration, automobiles, construction, defence and aerospace products, and drugs. About 66 per cent of the equity capital of Tata Sons is held by philanthropic trusts endowed by members of the Tata family.


  1. Ackland, A. (2011). The eye of the storm: Discursive power and resistance in the development of a professional qualification for adult literacies practitioners in Scotland. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 2(1), 57–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. AgendaNi (2015). A place for business in education. AgendaNi, 15 June. Retrieved 17 December 2015 from

  3. Ball, S. J. (2007). Education PLC: Understanding private sector participation in public sector education. Abingdon: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Ball, S. J. (2008). The education debate: Policy and politics in the twenty-first century. Bristol: Policy Press.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Ball, S. J. (2012a). The making of a neoliberal academic. Research in Secondary Teacher Education, 2(1), 29–31.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Ball, S. J. (2012b). Global education inc. New policy networks and the neo-liberal imaginary. Abingdon: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Ball, S. (2013). Concept of professionalism [PowerPoint presentation]. Presented to the University and College Union (UCU) on 13 March during a seminar for members entitled “Reclaiming professionalism: Have your say”. London: UCU. Retrieved 7 November 2015 from

  8. Benn, R., & Fieldhouse, R. (1994). Training and professional development in adult and continuing education. Exeter: University of Exeter, Centre for Research in Continuing Education.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bezes, P., Demazière, D., Le Bianic, T., Paradeise, C., Normand, R., Benamouzig, D., et al. (2011). New public management and professions in the public administration: Beyond opposition, what new patterns are taking shape? Sociologie du travail, 53(3), 293–348.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. BIS (Department for Business, Innovation & Skills) (2011). European Commission green paper: Modernising the professional qualifications directive. UK government response. Ref: 11/1297. London: BIS. Retrieved 7 November 2015 from

  11. BIS (2012a). Professionalism in further education in the UK. Final Report of the Independent Review Panel. Ref 12/1198. London: BIS. Retrieved 7 November 2015 from

  12. BIS (2012b). Evaluation of FE teachers’ qualifications (England). Regulations 2007. BIS Research Paper 66. Retrieved 9 March 2016 from

  13. Bowl, M. (2014). Adult education in changing times: Policies, philosophies and professionalism. Leicester: NIACE.

    Google Scholar 

  14. CEDEFOP (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) (2010). The development of national qualifications frameworks in Europe. Working paper No. 8. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

  15. Cervero, R. M. (1989). Becoming more effective in everyday practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 1989(44), 107–113.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Chand, P. (2007). Status of adult literacy: A data base for literacy. New Delhi: National Literacy Mission. Retrieved 7 November 2015 from

  17. Council of the European Union (2011). Council Resolution on a renewed European agenda for adult learning. C 372/1. Official Journal of the European Union, 20 December. Retrieved 7 November 2015 from

  18. Desai, V. S. (2012). Importance of literacy in India’s economic growth. International Journal of Economic Research, 3(2), 112–124.

    Google Scholar 

  19. DGfE (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Erziehungswissenschaft) (2008). Kerncurriculum Erziehungswissenschaft. Empfehlungen der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Erziehungswissenschaft [Core curriculum education. Recommendations of the German society for education]. Opladen: Barbara Budrich

  20. Dhéret, A., Nicoli, F., Pascouau, Y., & Zuleeg, F. (2013). Making progress towards the completion of the Single European Labour Market. EPC issue paper no.75. Brussels: European Policy Centre (EPC). Retrieved 7 November 2015 from

  21. Doyle, L. (2013). The fragility of professionalism in the de-regulated environment. ASEM Education and Research Hub for Lifelong Learning. Policy Brief. Aarhus: ASEM LLL Hub. Retrieved 9 November 2015 from

  22. E&Y & FICCI (Ernst & Young and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry) (2012). Knowledge paper on skill development. Learner first. Ernst & Young and FICCCI report, September. Kolkata: Ernst & Young Pvt. Retrieved 19 April 2015 from$FILE/FICCI_skill_report_2012_finalversion_low_resolution.pdf.

  23. EC (European Commission) (2006). Adult learning: It is never too late to learn. Communication from the Commission. COM(2006) 614 final. Brussels: Commission of the European Communities. Retrieved 9 March 2016 from

  24. EC (2007). Action Plan on Adult learning. It is always a good time to learn. Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. COM(2007) 558 final. Brussels: Commission of the European Communities. Retrieved 9 March 2016 from

  25. Education and Training Foundation (2015). Our priorities [webpage]. London: Education and Training Foundation. Retrieved 9 November 2015 from

  26. Egetenmeyer, R. (2014). In focus: Internationally-comparative research in adult education/further education–between educational policy governance and disciplinary configuration. Zeitschrift für Weiterbildungsforschung, 2(37), 15–28.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Egetenmeyer, R., & Schüßler, I. (2014). Professionalisierungsansätze in der Erwachsenenbildung in Europa: Bildungspolitische, professionalitätsbezogene und forschungsorientierte Perspektiven [Approaches towards professionalisation in adult education in Europe: Perspectives on educational policies, professionalisation and research]. Der pädagogische Blick. Zeitschrift für Wissenschaft und Praxis in pädagogischen Berufen, 3(22), 162–178.

    Google Scholar 

  28. EP (European Parliament) (2005). Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the recognition of professional qualifications. Official Journal of the European Union, 30 September. Retrieved 10 March 2016 from

  29. Eraut, M. (1994). Developing professional knowledge and competence. London: Falmer Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. EU (European Union) (2007). Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community, signed at Lisbon, 13 December 2007. 2007/C 306/01. Official Journal of the European Union, 17 December. Retrieved 10 March 2016 from

  31. Evans, L. (2008). Professionalism, professionality and the development of education professionals. British Journal of Educational Studies, 56(1), 20–38. Retrieved 7 November 2015 from

  32. Evetts, J. (2012). Professionalism in turbulent times: Changes, challenges and opportunities. Paper presented at the Propel International Conference Stirling 9–11 May. Retrieved 7 November 2015 from

  33. Exley, S., & Ball, S. (2011). Something old, something new: Understanding conservative education policy. In H. Bochel (Ed.), The conservative party and social policy (pp. 97–117). Bristol: Policy Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  34. France, A. (2016). Understanding youth in the global economic crisis. Bristol: Policy Press.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Freidson, E. (2001). Professionalism: The third logic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Gallacher, J. (2009). Inquiry into the future for lifelong learning: The Scottish perspective. Leicester: NIACE. Retrieved 18 December 2015 from

  37. Ghatate, V. N. (2013). IndiaIndia: Economic empowerment project for women (SEWA): P121475. Implementation status results report: Sequence 03. Washington, DC: World Bank. Retrieved 9 November 2015 from

  38. Gieseke, W. (Ed.). (2000). Programmplanung als Bildungsmanagement: Qualitative Studie in Perspektivverschränkung [Programme planning as educational management: A qualitative study of perspective interconnection]. Recklinghausen: Bitter.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Gieseke, W. (2008). Bedarfsorientierte Angebotsplanung in der Erwachsenenbildung [Needs-based planning of course offers in adult education]., Studientexte für Erwachsenenbildung (series) Bielefeld: W. Bertelsmann.

    Google Scholar 

  40. GoI (Govermnent of India) (1956). The University Grants Commission Act. New Delhi: Government of India. Retrieved 30 March 2016 from

  41. Hillier, Y., & Appleby, Y. (2012). Supporting professionalism: See-saw politics and the paradox of deregulation. Adults Learning, 24(2), 8–12.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Hoyle, E., & John, P. (1995). Professional knowledge and professional practice. London: Cassell.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Huber, A. (2004). Berufskarrieren im Kohortenvergleich. Diplom-PädagogInnen drei, zehn und zwanzig Jahre nach dem Examen [Professional careers compared by cohort: Qualified eduators three, ten and twenty years after graduation]. In H. H. Krüger & Th. Rauschenbach (Eds.), Pädagogen in Studium und Beruf. Empirische Bilanzen und Zukunftsperspektiven [Studying and working educators: Empirical balances and future prospects] (pp. 175–202). Wiesbaden: V.S. Verlag fur Sozialwissenschaften.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Hughes, D. (2011). So, what will the new NIACE look like, then? [blog post 29 November]. Leicester: Learning and Work Institute. Retrieved 18 December 2015 from“so-what-will-new-niace-look-then”.

  45. IIALE (International Institute of Adult and Lifelong Education) (2014). Background [webtext]. New Delhi. Retrieved 18 December 2015 from

  46. Jarvis, P. (2009). The Routledge international handbook of lifelong learning. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  47. John, N. (2011). Skills development: Sector profile. New Delhi: Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). Retrieved 9 November 2015 from

  48. Jones, B. (2007). Personal Communication with Bill Jones, Development Officer, NIACE, September 2007. In M. Osborne & K. Sankey (2009). Non-vocational adult education and its professionals in the United Kingdom. European Journal of Education, 44(2), 271–289.

  49. Karlekar, M. (2004). Paradigms of learning: The total literacy campaign in India. New Delhi: Sage publications.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Kraft, S., Seitter, W., & Kollewe, L. (2009). Professionalitätsentwicklung des Weiterbildungspersonals [Professional development of further education personnel]. Retrieved 7 November 2015 from

  51. Liveright, A. A. (1958). Growing pains in adult education: Evolving directions and perplexing problems in professionalization of adult education. Adult Education Quarterly, 8(2), 67–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Mathur, R. S., & Subramanyam, S. V. S. (1985). Issues and approaches in the training of adult education functionaries: A synthesis of findings from evaluation report—evaluation monograph. New Delhi: Directorate of Adult Education.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Merton, A. (2009). Personal Communication with Annie Merton, Senior Development Officer, NIACE. In M. Osborne & K. Sankey (Eds.), Non-vocational adult education and its professionals in the United Kingdom. European Journal of Education, 44(2), 271–289.

  54. NIACE (National Institute of Adult Continuing Education) (2014) European agenda for adult learning (201214). Leicester: Learning and Work Institute. Retrieved 9 March 2016 from

  55. NIACE (2015a). Who we work with [webpage]. Leicester: NIACE. Retrieved 19 December 2015 from

  56. NIACE (2015b). Making migration work: Labour market and skills solutions. Policy Solutions Number 2, March. Leicester: NIACE. Retrieved 6 November 2015 from

  57. Nuissl, E. (2008). 50 Jahre für die Erwachsenenbildung. Das DIE—Werden und Wirken eines wissenschaftlichen Service-Instituts. Bielefeld: Bertelsmann.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Nuissl, E. (2010). Profession and professional work in adult education in Europe. Studi sulla Formazione, 12(1/2), 127–132.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Nuissl, E., & Lattke, S. (Eds.). (2008). Qualifying adult learning professionals in Europe. Bielefeld: W. Bertelsmann.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Nuissl, E., & von Rein, A. (1995a). Corporate identity. Studientexte für Erwachsenenbildung [Corporate identity. Study texts for adult education series]. Frankfurt/Main: Deutsches Institut für Erwachsenenbildung.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Nuissl, E., & von Rein, A. (1995b). Öffentlichkeitsarbeit von Weiterbildungseinrichtungen. Studientexte für Erwachsenenbildung [Public relations of institutions for further education. Study texts for adult education series]. Frankfurt/Main: Deutsches Institut für Erwachsenenbildung.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Oevermann, U. (1996). Theoretische Skizze einer revidierten Theorie professionalisierten Handelns [Theoretical sketch of a revised theory of professionalised action]. In A. Combe & W. Helsper (Eds.), Pädagogische Professionalität. Untersuchungen zum Typus pädagogischen Handelns [Educational professionalism: Research on types of educational action] (pp. 70–182). Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Osborne, M., & Sankey, K. (2009). Non-vocational adult education and its professionals in the United Kingdom. European Journal of Education, 44(2), 271–289.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Patel, I. (2009). Policy on adult and lifelong learning: International and national perspectives. In Participatory Lifelong Learning and Information and Communication Technologies (PALDIN), Course 1 (Unit 2, pp. 21–30). New Delhi: Group of Adult Education, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Aladin-India. Retrieved 8 November 2015 from

  65. Peters, R. (1997). Erwachsenenbildungs-Professionalität. Ansprüche und Realitäten [Professionalism in adult education: Aspirations and realities]. Bielefeld: W. Bertelsmann.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Planning Commission. (2011). Faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth: An approach to the 12th Five Year Plan. New Delhi: Planning Commission, Government of India.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Ravi, S. (2011). A comprehensive study of education. New Delhi: PHI Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Research voor Beleid (Ed.) (2008). ALPINEAdult Learning Professionals in Europe: A study of the current situation, trends and issues. Final Report. Zoetemeer: Research voor Beleid. Retrieved 6 November 2015 from

  69. Research voor Beleid (Ed.) (2010). Key competences for adult learning professionals: Contribution to the development of a reference framework of key competences for adult learning professionals. Final report Zoetermeer: Research voor Beleid. Retrieved 6 November 2015 fromærni%202010_1168938254.pdf.

  70. Schöll, I. (1996). Weiterbildungsmarketing [Marketing in continuing education]. Frankfurt/Main: Deutsches Institut für Erwachsenenbildung.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Schulenberg, W. (1972). Zur Professionalisierung der Erwachsenenbildung [On professionalisation of adult education]. Braunschweig: Westermann.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Shah, S. Y. (Ed.). (1999). An encyclopaedia of Indian adult education. New Delhi: National Literacy Mission, Government of India.

    Google Scholar 

  73. Shah, S.Y. (2009). Mapping the field of training adult and lifelong learning in India. Paper presented during a DIE conference entitled “Teachers and trainers in adult education and lifelong learning: Professional development in Asia and Europe”, held 29–30 June in Bergisch Gladbach. Retrieved 9 November 2015 from

  74. Singai, C. B. (2015). Extension as third mission in India: An “extended function” of the University. Paper presented at the “National seminar on social responsibility of the higher education institutions: Status, problems and strategies” held 3–4 July. Tirupati: Sri.Venkateshwara University, Department of Continuing and Adult Education.

  75. Strauch, A., Radtke, M., & Lupou, R. (Eds.). (2011). Flexible pathways towards professionalization: Senior adult educators in Europe. Bielefeld: W. Bertelsmann.

    Google Scholar 

  76. Tietgens, H. (1964): Warum kommen wenig Industriearbeiter in die Volkshochschule? [Why do only few industrial workers attend courses in (German) adult education centres?] Reprinted 1987 in W. Schulenberg (Ed.), Erwachsenenbildung [Adult education] (pp. 98–174). Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.

  77. Tight, M. (2002). Key concepts in adult education and training. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  78. UCU (University and College Union (2011). Institute for Learning. Retrieved 18 November 2015 from

  79. UCU (2013). Towards a UCU policy on professionalism. Retrieved 6 November 2015 from

  80. UCU (2015). ACE update The Newsletter for Adult and Community Education, Summer issue [online newsletter]. London: University and College Union. Retrieved 7 November 2015 from

  81. Van der Krogt, T. (2007). Towards a new professional autonomy in the public sector: A pledge for re-professionalization on a collective level. In Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the European Group for Public Administration (EGPA), Madrid, 19–21 September.

  82. Welsh Government (2010). Delivering skills that work for Wales: A labour market Framework. Cardiff: Welsh Government. Retrieved 17 December 2015 from

  83. Whitty, G. (2008). Changing modes of teacher professionalism. In B. Cunningham (Ed.), Exploring professionalism (pp. 28–49). London: Institute of Education, University of London.

    Google Scholar 

  84. Zia, B. (2010). The fad of financial literacy? [Blog post, 8 December]. On All about finance. A blog by Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, Director of Research, World Bank. Retrieved 9 November 2015 from

Download references


We would like to acknowledge the support of the ASEM (Asia–Europe Meeting) LLL (Lifelong Learning) Hub ( of the Asia-Europe Foundation ( Three authors of this paper, Dr Lesley Doyle, Professor Regina Egetenmeyer and Dr D. Uma Devi, are members of the ASEM LLL Research Network 3 (Professionalisation) and it is through the work of the Network that this paper was conceptualised. Our thanks also go to Professors Barbara Kehm and Michael Osborne of the University of Glasgow for their advice and recommendations on earlier drafts of this paper.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lesley Doyle.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Doyle, L., Egetenmeyer, R., Singai, C. et al. Professionalisation as development and as regulation: Adult education in Germany, the United Kingdom and India. Int Rev Educ 62, 317–341 (2016).

Download citation


  • Professionalism
  • Adult education
  • Professionalisation
  • Bureaucracy
  • Market