Lifelong Learning has been recognised as an essential element of the European Higher Education Area since the Ministers met in Prague in 2001. The Prague Communiqué signals that in a Europe built on a knowledge-based society and economy, lifelong learning strategies are necessary to face the challenges of competitiveness and the use of new technologies, and to improve social cohesion, equal opportunities and quality of life.
Since then, there has been growing awareness of the need to embed lifelong learning within higher education, if we are to meet the challenges of the future. This includes the particular challenges arising from the changing demography of EHEA.
Increasingly, lifelong learning is seen as a cross cutting issue, inherent in all aspects of the Bologna Process. The following steps were deemed necessary for the implementation of lifelong learning:
- widening access to higher education;
- creating more flexible, student-centred modes of delivery;
- improving the recognition of prior learning, including non-formal and informal learning;
- developing national qualifications frameworks;
- improving cooperation with employers, especially in the development of educational programmes;
The London Communiqué (2007) reports that some elements of flexible learning exist in most countries, but a more systematic development of flexible learning paths to support lifelong learning is at an early stage. Ministers have therefore asked the Bologna Follow-up Group to increase the sharing of good practice and work towards a common understanding of the role of higher education in lifelong learning.
The Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué (2009) further specified the concept of lifelong learning, stating “lifelong learning implies that qualifications may be obtained through flexible learning paths, including part-time studies, as well as work-based routes”. The Ministers also acknowledged that successful policies for lifelong learning would include basic principles and procedures for recognition of prior learning on the basis of learning outcomes. Further on, the Ministers aimed to have national qualifications frameworks implemented and prepared for self-certification against the overarching Qualifications Framework for the European Higher Education Area by 2012 .
The Bucharest Communiqué (2012) reaffirmed the role of lifelong learning as one of the important factors in meeting the needs of a changing labour market, and stressed the central role of higher education institutions in transferring knowledge and strengthening regional development, including by the continuous development of competences and reinforcement of knowledge alliances.