International Conference Lifelong Learning, Higher Education and Active Citizenship

The Cape Town StatementThe Cape Town Statement

“We see a key purpose of lifelong learning as demo cratic citizenship,… Democratic citizenship highlights the importance of women and men as agents of history in all aspects of their lives.” 1


In this statement, we are taking forward the work started at the Fifth International Conference on Adult Education in Hamburg, Germany, 1997, continued at the University of Mumbai, India in 1998, and the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education in Paris in 1998.

We recall the commitment made in Article 19 (a) of the Agenda for the Future adopted by the Fifth International Conference on Adult Education to [open] schools, colleges and universities to adult learners:

“a) by requiring institutions of formal education from primary level onwards to be prepared to open their doors to adult learners, both women and men, adapting their programmes and learning conditions to meet their needs;

b) by developing coherent mechanisms to recognize the outcomes of learning undertaken in different contexts, and to ensure that credit is transferable within and between institutions, sectors and states;

c) by establishing joint university/community research and training partner ships, and by bringing the services of universities to outside groups; d) by carrying out interdisciplinary research in all aspects of adult education and learning with the participation of adult learners themselves; e) by creating opportunities for adult learning in flexible, open and creative ways, taking into account the specificities of women’s and men’s lives.”

And we recall Article 1(b) of the World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century, which states that core missions and values of higher educa tion are to:

“provide opportunities for higher learning and for learning throughout life, giving to learners an optimal range of choice and flexibility of entry and exit points within the system, as well as an opportunity for individual development and social mobility in order to educate for citizenship and for active participation in society, with a worldwide vision, for endogenous capacity building, and for the consolidation of human rights, sustainable development, democracy and peace, in a context of justice;”

as well as Article 1(a) of the Framework for Priority Action for Change and Devel

opment of Higher Education, which states that “no discrimination can be accepted, no one can be excluded from higher education or its study fields, degree levels and types of institutions on grounds of race, gender, language, religion, or age or because of any economic or social distinctions or physical disabilities;”

We take into account that lifelong learning is dependent on both the individual and the social context and that learning occurs in institutions, but can also occur anyway, anywhere and at anytime throughout life. That is, it is life-long, life-wide, and life-deep.

As pointed out in The Mumbai Statement on Lifelong Learning, Active Citizenship

and the Reform of Higher Education, we understand that “the transformation to genuine lifelong learning institutions requires a holistic approach which a) supports the institution becoming a lifelong learning com munity itself; b) integrates academic, financial and administrative elements; c) provides structures which are responsible for organizational, staff, student and curriculum development and community engagement; and d) aligns the various supportive structures such as academic information systems, library provision and learning technologies to the new mission of universities in learning societies“

(Art. 9);

and that a key purpose of lifelong learning is active citizenship which is important in terms of

“connecting individuals and groups to the structures of social, political and economic activity in both local and global contexts. Democratic citizenship highlights the importance of women and men as agents of history in all aspects of their lives.” (Art. 3).

Thus lifelong learning enables students to learn at different times, in different ways, for different purposes at various stages of their lives and careers. Lifelong learning is concerned with providing learning opportunities throughout life, while developing lifelong learners. Furthermore, in a Higher Education Institution (HEI) all members of the institution are learners and at different times the members of the institution will take on different roles. These roles include educator, student, administrator, cleaner, and so on.

The Future

While we recognise that it is difficult to create a generic document, which can work across differing contexts, and yet still makes sense in a specific context, we have developed a set of elements, which characterise a Lifelong Learning Higher Edu cation Institution, for use as an instrument to assist transformation within HEIs. We also recognise that performance indicators which provide quantifiable measures, covering individual, social and economic development needs would be helpful. The development of such indicators should be based on the profound knowledge of re spective systems of higher education and emerging systems of lifelong learning. In developing indicators which assess a lifelong learning HEI which ensures “no discrimination on grounds of race, gender, language, religion, or age or because of any economic or social distinctions or physical disabilities”, it is essential to monitor the experiences of all lifelong learners (including students and staff) across the vari ous social categories. Lifelong learning challenges the dominant paradigm of HEIs, therefore the experiences of adult learners need to be monitored with extra care.

This document suggests the following six sets of characteristic elements which are necessary to support a lifelong learning HEI. The following table gives these six characteristic elements and a short description.

1. Overarching Frameworks

Overarching frameworks provide the contexts which allow an HEI to operate as a lifelong learning institution. These are: Regulatory, Financial and Cultural/Social.


  • A facilitating regulatory framework promotes lifelong learning and covers financial, legal and social concerns.
  • The national and/or regional economic and social developmental strategies and implementation plans support lifelong learning.
  • A national framework facilitates vertical and lateral mobility of learners.


  • At a national and institutional level a financial plan is in place to support the transformation of HEIs into lifelong learning institutions.
  • Institutional planning and implementation strategies include financial, academic and administrative elements.


  • There is a culture which supports learning for all, across differences of social class, caste, gender, “race”, religion, and at all stages in life.
  • There is a national, regional and institutional commitment to making learning opportunities available to all.

2. Strategic Partnerships and Linkages

In partnerships and linkages we include the following: forming relationships inter nationally; forming relationships with other institutions; forming relationships within institutions as well as forming relationships with other groups/sectors in society.

International partnerships and linkages

  • Lifelong learning institutions in the globalizing world strive for a broad exchange on teaching/learning systems and collaboration across national boundaries. This is for: sharing knowledge and know-how; partnerships and alliances based on common interest, mutual respect and desire to attain social justice, globally and locally; enhancing the sharing of skills, research opportunities, and staff and student development.

Partnerships and linkages across institutions and society

  • A lifelong learning HEI strives for greater collaboration among institutions and between institutions and client groups such as trade unions, governmental agencies, other educational sectors, social agencies and employers to achieve mutually sought goals. This includes sharing human and other resources and embarking on joint research projects.
  • The development of a “learning region” together with other social partners is part of the commitment of the institution.

Partnerships and linkages within institutions

  • Decision-making is a shared responsibility based on collaborative processes among academic staff, service staff and learners to create rapid responses to learner and community needs. These stakeholders are involved in decisions on choice of programmes, assessment of learning outcomes, curriculum design and methods.
  • Policies and strategies are in place to foster interaction among learners, faculty, communities and the economy in order to encourage commitments to social justice both locally and globally.
  • The lifelong learning HEI is involved in developing, evaluating and implement ing educational programmes for all sectors of education, not only the Higher Education sector.

3. Research

Research is understood in a broad sense and includes working across disciplines and / or across institutions. Lifelong learning is regarded as an important and legitimate research area.

  • Lifelong learning is regarded as an important and legitimate research and teaching area.
  • Research working across disciplines and institutions is recognised and promoted.
  • There is collaborative research with civil society, the economy and learners.
  • Different paradigms of research are recognised. This includes amongst others action research, case studies and story telling.
  • There is ongoing research and development to meet the changing needs of the learner community, to promote broad access and to facilitate successful learning.
  • There is ongoing research to assess the transforming institution.

4. Teaching and Learning Processes

Educators encourage self-directed learning, engage with the know ledges, inter ests and life situations which learners bring to their education and use open and resource-based learning approaches.

  • Educators engage with the knowledges, interests and life situations that learners contribute to the teaching/learning processes and they build on the resources and experiences of the learners. Different “ways of knowing” are valued which enable marginalised social groups to be full participants in the creation and dissemination of knowledge.
  • Educators facilitate and manage learning rather than dispense information. Learners are seen by educators as co-creators of knowledge and are often encouraged to participate in the design of learning activities including mechanisms of continuous evaluation and feedback.
  • Educators recognise the need for reflective / practice-based learning.
  • Educators recognise the value of keeping up to date with theories and best practices of adult learning across age and other differences.
  • Educators and learners recognise that learning in higher education can take place according to flexible schedules and at different locations. They incor porate this into course design and presentation and ensure that the materials and structures for learning made available through the institution overcome the barriers of place, space, time and pace which restrict opportunities for learning in traditional structures.


  • The institution makes its resource-based learning environment accessible to learners wherever they are, not just on campus. Learners are encouraged to make use of support services such as the library. Such services are made available through suitable technology according to the needs of the students off campus as well as on campus.
  • Course presentation and opportunities to enrol for and study courses include the use of multi- and combined-media delivery and support, utilising the technologies, both old and new, and the flexible learning structures of open and distance learning. This includes print, correspondence, mass media, occasional face-to-face tutorials and study-groups, ICT etc.
  • Provision is made for self-paced independent study by providing for students to study effectively wherever, whenever and at whatever pace is appropriate for them.
  • Assessment takes place in various forms and continuously.
  • Programmes include opportunities for experiential learning (e.g. field work, workplace learning, community service learning).

5. Administration Policies and Mechanisms

Service to learners is the top priority of the administration.

  • The institution needs to indicate in the mission statement its intention to be an open and lifelong learning institution. There also needs to be an implementa tion strategy as part of the overall planning in the institution together with the necessary resource allocations.
  • University course information booklets embrace the notion of lifelong learning.
  • Service to students is the top priority of the administration department – so registration, lecture times and academic support are all available at times and in formats geared to the convenience of learners including off-campus open learners. Registration occurs regularly throughout the year.
  • Prior learning is recognised, both in terms of obtaining access and getting credit for modules. This includes having clearly defined criteria for what con stitutes tertiary level learning.
  • Programmes are in place to facilitate implementation of recognition of prior learning (RPL). This includes training people to do the assessment as well as preparing educators to be cognisant of RPL in their teaching and design of the curriculum.
  • In addition to RPL, progress is made towards a more flexible, open entry system which, along with careful counselling, is designed to give students the chance to prove themselves rather than to exclude where formal criteria are not met.
  • The turnaround time on assignments, especially for distance students, is kept to a minimum and specified to the learners so that they can use feedback on their assignments to inform their learning on an ongoing basis.
  • More flexible curricular compilation structures (in which students can exercise choice of subjects and subject combinations relevant to their own individual needs) are in place leading to recognised qualifications.
  • Much more flexible progression rates and ability to move between different study modes within a qualification are in place.
  • Programmes are arranged to allow for flexible entry and exit points.

6. Student Support Systems and Services

Learners are helped to become independent learners in various ways.

  • The obligations and responsibilities of the learners and the educational providers are made clear at registration.
  • It is clear what resources and equipment the provider will supply, and where, and what the learners themselves have to supply.
  • The institution creates and maintains geographically dispersed and technologically accessible learning and support structures wherever the students are.
  • Tutors are selected and trained for their role of facilitating learning.
  • Learners are given various forms of support to become independent learners. These must include: technology old and new throughout the geographical area where students live for tutoring at a distance, contact tutoring, teaching on assignments, mentoring, counselling (both remote and face to face) and the stimulation of peer support structures.
  • There is a constant effort to be creative about the ways to keep costs low for students, including multiple avenues for paying tuition.
  • Childcare, transport and catering are available to ensure a safe, secure and comfortable environment to meet the needs of all learners. This includes the special needs of learners with a disability as well as those studying at-adistance.

Source: Adult Education and Development, Number 56, 2001, pp. 109 –120


1 As quoted by Professor Kadar Asmal, National Minister of Education of South Africa at the opening of the Cape Town conference, 10 October 2000.


Adult Education and Development


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