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Palgrave Macmillan

Lifelong Learning, Young Adults and the Challenges of Disadvantage in Europe

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  • Open Access
  • © 2023

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  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access
  • Presents the results of a trans-European research project
  • Provides innovative insights into EU policy processes and their outcomes
  • Includes contributions from leading scholars in the field

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About this book

This open access book challenges international policy ‘groupthink’ about lifelong learning. Adult learning – too long a servant of business competitiveness – should be reimagined as central to democratic society. Young adults, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, engage more in education and training, and learn more day-to-day at work, if provision is democratically organised and based on enduring and inclusive institutional networks, and when jobs encourage and reward the acquisition of skills. Using innovative qualitative and quantitative methods, the contributors develop a critical perspective on dominant policies, investigating – across the European Union and Australia – how ‘vulnerable’ young adults experience programmes designed to improve their ‘employability’, and how ‘skills for jobs’ policies squeeze out wider – and wiser – ideas of what education and training should do. Chapters show why some provision works for those with poor educational backgrounds, why labour market and educational institutions matter so much, how adult education can empower and expand people’s agency, and the challenges of using artificial intelligence in lifelong learning policy-making. Several investigate the pivotal role of workplace learning in organisational life, and in learning during ‘emerging adulthood’. Important comparative studies of workplace learning in the metals, retail and adult education sectors show the role of management, trade unions and social movements in young adults’ learning.

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Table of contents (16 chapters)

  1. Lifelong Learning for an Inclusive and Vibrant Europe

  2. Policies, Programmes and Participation

  3. Young Adults’ Learning in the Workplace and Beyond

  4. Conclusion


“This book is a powerful and stimulating engagement with the myriad ways in which the positive aspirations of policymakers are altered by the exigencies of local political, social and organisational context.” (Alan Tuckett, International Review of Education, Vol. 69 (4), 2023)

Editors and Affiliations

  • School of Education, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

    John Holford, Sharon Clancy

  • Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia, Bulgaria

    Pepka Boyadjieva

  • 3s, Vienna, Austria

    Günter Hefler

  • Institute for Forecasting, CSPS, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia

    Ivana Studená

About the editors

John Holford is Robert Peers Professor of Adult Education at the University of Nottingham, UK and Co-ordinator of the Enliven project. 

Pepka Boyadjieva is Professor of Sociology in the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and Honorary Professor at the University of Nottingham, UK. 

Sharon Clancy is Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham, UK, and was Senior Research Fellow on the Enliven project 2016-2019. 

Günter Hefler is Senior Researcher and Project Manager at 3s (, Austria. 

Ivana Studená is a Researcher at the Centre of Social and Psychological Sciences, Slovak Academy of Sciences. 

Bibliographic Information

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