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International Review of Education

, Volume 63, Issue 5, pp 725–744 | Cite as

Popular universities: An alternative vision for lifelong learning in Europe

  • Nelly P. Stromquist
  • Romina B. da Costa
Original Paper

Abstract

At its inception in 1993, the European Union (EU) did not consider education one of the pillars of its regional cohesiveness and identity. As time went by, recognition of the potential role of education at individual and social levels increased. This concern for education, however, is much more centred on the acquisition of knowledge and skills towards developing a competitive labour force than towards facilitating the integration of all citizens in the European community – a bias which is reflected in EU policies and recommendations. At local levels, communities need to offer educational opportunities to all members of society, irrespective of their social, cultural and linguistic background and their level of education. In many EU member countries, this kind of learning is offered by popular universities (PUs), which are not state-funded and run in close collaboration with their respective local communities. The authors of this paper carried out a qualitative survey, collecting data on PUs in Spain and France. Their purpose was to examine how European PU offerings align with community needs, and to what extent they address emerging issues such as immigration, the refugee crisis, an aging population and youth unemployment. In the evaluation of their comparative survey, the authors link the grassroots approaches of PUs in Spain and France to the broader European Union (EU) discourse on lifelong learning (LLL) as seen in policy documents such as the European Commission’s Memorandum on Lifelong Learning. Finally, they examine the ways in which PUs’ approach to LLL works to contest the dominant consensus on the meaning and scope of lifelong learning, offering an alternative way forward.

Keywords

Adult education European Union Lifelong learning Non-formal education Popular universities 

Résumé

Universités populaires : une vision alternative de l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie en Europe – Lors de sa création en 1993, l’Union européenne (UE) ne considérait pas l’éducation comme un pilier de sa cohésion et de son identité propres. Au fil du temps, le rôle potentiel de l’instruction au niveau à la fois individuel et social a été de plus en plus reconnu. Mais cette préoccupation est bien davantage axée sur l’acquisition de connaissances et de compétences dans l’optique de former une main-d’œuvre compétitive, que de faciliter l’intégration de tous les citoyens dans la communauté européenne, tendance qui se reflète dans les politiques et recommandations de l’UE. Au niveau local, les communautés doivent pourtant offrir des opportunités éducatives à tous les membres de la société, indépendamment de leur origine sociale, culturelle et linguistique ainsi que de leur niveau d’instruction. Un grand nombre de pays membres de l’UE proposent ces opportunités à travers les « universités populaires » , non financées par l’État et gérées en collaboration étroite avec les communautés locales. Les auteures de cet article ont réalisé une enquête qualitative en collectant des données sur les universités populaires en Espagne et en France. Leur objectif consistait à examiner si l’offre des universités populaires en Europe répond aux besoins de leurs communautés, et dans quelle mesure cette offre traite les nouveaux enjeux tels que l’immigration, la crise des réfugiés, le vieillissement de la population ou le chômage des jeunes. Dans l’évaluation de cette enquête comparative, les auteures associent les approches locales des universités populaires espagnoles et françaises au discours plus général de l’Union européenne sur l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie, qui ressort de documents stratégiques tels que le Mémorandum de la Commission sur l’éducation et la formation tout au long de la vie. Enfin, elles explorent les moyens par lesquels l’approche de l’éducation tout au long de la vie adoptée par les universités populaires parvient à contester le consensus dominant quant au sens et à la portée de l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie, et proposent une autre option pour l’avenir.

Resumen

Universidades populares: una visión alternativa para el aprendizaje permanente en Europa En su inicio en 1993, la Unión Europea (UE) no consideró la educación uno de los pilares de su cohesión e identidad regionales. Con el paso del tiempo, el reconocimiento del papel potencial de la educación en los niveles individual y social ha aumentado. Sin embargo, esta preocupación por la educación se centra mucho más en la adquisición de conocimientos y aptitudes para desarrollar una fuerza de trabajo competitiva que en facilitar la integración de todos los ciudadanos en la comunidad europea – un sesgo que se refleja en las políticas y recomendaciones de la UE. A nivel local, las comunidades deben ofrecer oportunidades educativas a todos los miembros de la sociedad, independientemente de sus antecedentes sociales, culturales y lingüísticos y su nivel de educación. En muchos países miembros de la UE, este tipo de aprendizaje es ofrecido por universidades populares (UP), que no están financiadas por el Estado y funcionan en estrecha colaboración con sus respectivos municipios. Las autoras de este trabajo realizaron una encuesta cualitativa, recopilando datos sobre las UP en España y Francia. Su propósito era examinar cómo las ofertas de las PU europeas se alinean con las necesidades de la comunidad, y en qué medida se ocupan de temas emergentes como la inmigración, la crisis de refugiados, el envejecimiento de la población y el desempleo juvenil. En la evaluación de su estudio comparativo, los autores vinculan los enfoques de base de las UP en España y Francia al discurso más amplio de la Unión Europea (UE) sobre el aprendizaje permanente como se ve en documentos de política como el Memorándum de la Comisión Europea sobre aprendizaje permanente. Por último, las autoras examinan las formas en que el enfoque de las UP funciona para impugnar el consenso dominante sobre el significado y el alcance del aprendizaje permanente, ofreciendo un camino alternativo hacia adelante.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Silver SpringUSA

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