University of Leicester to spearhead Europe-wide research into older people's learning experiences

Posted by pt91 at Feb 08, 2012 12:20 PM |
New European project will gather information and create platform to exchange knowledge and inform best practice for later-life learning

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 8 February 2012

PIC OPP: 6.15pm – 6:30pm on Wednesday 8th February 2012 at the Park Lounge in the Charles Wilson building, University of Leicester

The University of Leicester will this week host the UK launch of a pan-European project focusing on improving later-life learning experiences across 17 countries.

The Lord Mayor of Leicester Robert Wann and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester Professor Sir Robert Burgess will attend the launch of the Forage European Project at the University of Leicester on Wednesday February 8.

Professor John Benyon, from the Institute of Lifelong Learning at the University of Leicester, is leading the Forage European project which will gather the later- life learning experiences of 17 countries. The project is a European multi-lateral network which aims at communicating the experiences of lifelong learning to create high standards of practice.

The project is co-ordinated by the University of Leicester’s Institute of Lifelong Learning, which has established an international reputation for work in the field of older people and lifelong learning, and is in partnership with the Association for Education & Ageing.

There is a range of educational opportunities offered to older people across European countries and this is supported by several bodies, including agencies, government departments and by older people themselves. As of yet, there is no communication network available to enable users to share and learn from these experiences. The Forage network will add to international research and supply users with data for later-life learning. The network intends to create an archive of past projects through an interactive website or e-platform. It will also allow users to gain access to learning policy and research, statistical evidence and examples of best practice.

John Benyon has previously run a seven-year series of seminars on how lifelong learning in universities and the further education sector can help to improve the well-being, not just of older people, but also of the wider society.

He says: “There is a huge demand for education from people over 50, but policies of recent governments and agencies, such as the DfES, BIS, HEFCE and the former Learning and Skills Council appear to have downgraded courses for older people. When I first came into adult education over 30 years ago, the majority of our programmes were non-accredited courses and the world was not a worse place for that.

“I will go to my grave saying there is nothing wrong with wanting to learn for the sake of it. Education for education’s sake is a good thing – it enriches the lives of individuals and communities.”

The Forage project will guide later-learning in several ways. Methods in which this learning is taught and delivered require strategies developed from research, and those who deliver the learning, such as teachers and volunteers, need to be able to access valuable sources of information in order to gain skills and understanding.

The new network will attempt to collaborate with the individuals involved in the learning process – such as the older individual, public services and practitioners - and develop them into a partnership. It will draw together the variety of European and national projects in order to provide an overview of current policy and practice in learning for older people. 

The Forage network will use its website as a platform for discussion groups and will enable individuals to examine different projects. It will give information and advice for individuals and organisations so that the needs of later-life learning may be better fulfilled. The network will also link with other forums in Europe involved with learning for older people.

Learning is of central importance for maintaining independence and general well-being in later life. Many different benefits may arise for older people who participate in learning activities.

In a recent paper titled ‘The Longevity Revolution’, Professor Benyon argued: ‘Learning can assist older people to understand financial and legal matters, make more informed consumer choices, live independently, develop new skills and interests, understand social, political and technological change and enjoy a more fulfilling life. Adult education also helps to overcome social exclusion and isolation, can further active citizenship among older people and brings benefits in fields such as housing, crime and safety, and arts and culture. Learning activities can also promote older people’s mental and physical health, well-being and social affiliations.’

The Forage project aims to examine the most effective ways of realising the benefits of learning for older people and of promoting these activities for wider numbers of people.

The FORAGE Wine Reception will take place at 6.00 pm – 6:30 pm on Wednesday 8th February 2012 at the Park Lounge in the Charles Wilson building. The Lord Mayor is due to arrive at 6:00pm. The event is by invitation only but is open to the press.


Notes to editors:

For more information, please contact Jo Leadbetter, Tel:  0116 229 7597 or Professor John Benyon, Professor of Political Studies, Institute of Lifelong Learning, email:; telephone: 0116 2525922 or


Full list of partners:

University of Leicester
Leicester UK
Bia-net Graz Austria
Cyprus Adult Education Service Nicosia Cyprus
Finnish Adult Education Association Helsinki Finland
50plus Hellas Athens Greece
Trebag Property & Management Ltd
Budapest Hungary
Lunaria Rome Italy
The Elephant Learning in Diversity Netherlands
PRO-MED Gdansk Poland
Aid-Learn Lisbon Portugal
IMB Domicilium Czech Republic
Associata EURED Bucharest Rumania
University of Bratislava Bratislava Slovakia
MERIG (internal evaluation) 
Graz Austria
The Slovenian Third Age University
Ljubljana Slovenia
University of Cordoba
Cordoba Spain
Age Action Ireland Dublin Eire
Report by Hannah Adkins

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