University as a cathedral: lifelong learning and the role of the university in the European context

Pepka Boyadjieva, Kevin Orr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The paper discusses the main issues which emerge for the university as an institution in the European context from the development of the lifelong learning paradigm. It focuses on both the opportunity-creating and tension-provoking presence of the lifelong learning concept in the university’s institutional environment. The analysis is based on a thematic review of articles published in the International Journal of Lifelong Education (IJLE) during the four decades of its existence. The paper argues that: (1) the implementation of lifelong learning requires a profound change in the systemic characteristics of the university institution and cannot be limited to the establishment of departments of adult and continuing education; (2) without being uncritically perceived, lifelong learning is a strategy that can help universities successfully address some of their main problems and continue to develop as a key institution of societies in the 21st century and (3) in the European context, the institutional model that can embody the paradigm for lifelong learning and at the same time contains the possibility of preserving the specificity of university as an institution, is best symbolised by a cathedral.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-633
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Lifelong Education
Issue number6
Early online date5 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


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