What partnerships and alliances can support the Lifelong Learning system?

Cross-country networks / Partnerships

Over the last 30 years educational providers in Europe have greatly increased their networking activities at sub-national, national and international levels. Higher education institutions started earlier, benefiting from the boost of the Erasmus Programme (‘Erasmus Programme’, n.d.) (now 35 years old). The trend has now expanded to all educational providers, with the focus slowly moving from initial education to the broader lifelong learning dimension.

The factors behind this process have not changed; on the contrary they have strengthened the trend and expanded it to a wider range of providers and educational levels. Converging policy reforms in most EU countries (e.g., the increased operational and financial autonomy of educational providers), a bonanza of opportunities for partnering and learning across 29 different countries and a very supportive financial framework, have made Europe “the” international case of best practice in the area of cross-country networks and partnerships.

One of the most interesting aspects of this trend is that the process of moving from a non-competitive environment (typical of compulsory public education in Europe) to a competitive one (for money, for students) determined an increase in the establishment of cross-country networks and partnerships. This atypical link between competition and cooperation is mainly due to the nature of the educational sector and the strong will of the European Union for exploiting the strengths and complementarities of the different systems.

In the last few years two developments have been observed. The first is geographical expansion. As mentioned before, the European Union has been the strongest driver behind the process of inter-institutional cooperation in education, generating a huge networking volume among EU institutions; however more and more these networks have out-grown the old continent in all directions. EU institutions have interiorized the value of peer learning and continuous development and started to look at other countries for different models of excellence. On the other side the EU bustling cooperation environment has become a beacon for many countries and their educational institutions. Pressure for joining networks from Africa, for example, has become stronger over recent years, and most networks have willingly welcomed the new members. Partnerships like Skillman have become effective worldwide networks. The second trend is the growth of cooperation of TVET providers, in particular the Centres of Excellence (European Training Foundation, 2020). This trend is bringing a couple of innovations: an additional attention to different forms of learning (non-formal, informal learning, adult learning, etc.) and a stronger involvement in the world of work.

Erasmus Programme. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved 25 July 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erasmus_Programme 

European Training Foundation. (2020). Centres of vocational excellence an engine for vocational education and training development: an international study. https://doi.org/10.2816/771725 

Platforms of skills ecosystems: a Lifelong learning system model in which TVET can lead local communities to achieving the SDG’s
Filippo Del Ninno
Giovani Crisonà