© 2014

Access to Education in Europe

A Framework and Agenda for System Change


  • Provides an innovative theoretical development of systems theory to go beyond Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) systems approach in developmental psychology

  • Based on a broad cross-national framework of 12 European countries, involving Western, Central and Eastern European countries

  • Offers an important step in progression towards a UN rights based approach to implementation of access to education


Part of the Lifelong Learning Book Series book series (LLLB, volume 21)

About this book


This book identifies key elements of an international framework to develop systems-level change to promote access to education, including higher education, for socio-economically marginalized groups. It is based on interviews with senior government officials and senior management in universities, non formal education and prisons across 12 countries in Europe. The book identifies systemic obstacles to and opportunities for promotion of access to education for socio-economically excluded groups that are issues transferable to other countries’ contexts. It adopts a systemic focus on access across a range of domains of education, both formal higher education and non-formal education, as well as prison education. Through a focus on a more dynamic structuralist systems framework it develops an innovative post-Bronfenbrennerian view of system levels in lifespan developmental and educational psychology. It also develops an international agenda for reform in relation to these various system levels for access to education for socio-economically marginalized groups, through extraction of key structural indicators to evaluate reform progress in a transparent, culturally sensitive manner. The book identifies current gaps and strengths in policy, practice and structures that impact upon access to education, including higher education, across a range of countries. These gaps and strengths are illustrative and are to inform a strategic approach to system level change and development for the promotion of access to education for socio-economically marginalized groups in Europe and beyond.

“Too many educational practices entrench social exclusion: it is an urgent priority across Europe that social justice policies are implemented for the inclusion of marginalised groups. Paul Downes' analysis of these issues is timely. His conclusions are considered and practical: this book is a valuable and constructive resource for practitioners, academics and the policy community.” Professor Alistair Ross, Jean Monnet ad Personam Professor of Citizenship Education in Europe, Emeritus Professor of Education, Institute for Policy Studies in Education, London Metropolitan University


Access to formal higher education Access to non-formal education Access to prison education Bronfenbrennerian view of system levels Education for socio-economically disadvantaged groups Social exclusion and education

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Educational Disadvantage Centre St. Patrick's CollegeDublin City UniversityDublinIreland

Bibliographic information