The university sector, because of its unique capacity and mandate to advance knowledge, foster innovation and educate, constitutes a huge potential for promoting lifelong learning. However, its actual contribution remains unclear. Many universities continue to prioritize academic excellence and research, yet with less attention being paid to teaching and providing lifelong learning opportunities to the community. Hence, achieving the vision expressed through the SDGs and precisely articulated in SDG 4 will require a substantial transformation of HEIs, in particular universities.
To further explore these issues and provide guidance to policy-makers and higher education institutions, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) and Shanghai Open University (SOU) are conducting a comprehensive research project on the contribution of universities and other HEIs to lifelong learning.
The research project consists of several components, including an extended literature review; an international survey of universities; institutional case studies to capture trends and innovative practices; interviews with key informants; and specific thematic studies, including a survey on open universities in China, an exploration of universities of the third age, and a study on universities in learning cities.
The final comprehensive report, covering the results of all sub-projects, was published on 5 June 2023.