Evidence & Research


What research and evidence is there about adult learning in Europe?

Policy and provision for adult learning needs to be based upon evidence about what is effective. The European Commission helps by commissioning research and by disseminating the latest information to policymakers and stakeholders.

Analysis of the effectiveness of adult learning policies

The European Commission published a study bringing together the latest evidence about the key success factors that make adult learning policies effective. It includes a framework for analysing policies and guidance to Member States on developing and monitoring effective adult learning policies. This is the basis for the EPALE Policy Analysis Tool, designed to help policy makers assess their adult learning policies and provision, and make improvements where necessary.

The situation of adult education and adult learning varies significantly between the different Member States of the European Union. The European Commission has commissioned this series of in-depth reports about the situation of adult learning in each country. The findings from these 28 reports have been systhesised into a report that identifies at the main trends and challenges facing the adult learning sector across the whole EU.

The Survey of Adult Skills

The European Commission contributes to PIAAC(link is external)’s Survey of Adult Skills organised by the OECD(link is external). The survey provides real data about the skills of adults in 40 countries across the globe. It shows that a very high proportion of adults in Europe struggle with basic skills like literacy, numeracy and digital skills.

Other useful research on adult learning

Here are some links to other research and studies relevant to adult learning, which the EC has commissioned:

Adult Learners in Digital Learning Environments

The study describes the current state-of-play in the use of ICT-enhanced learning, including OER, in adult education, across different countries. It describes the many benefits of using ICT in adult learning, and provides recommendations to policymakers, learning providers and learners about making the best use of ICT.

Adult Education and Training in Europe – widening access to learning opportunities

The publication uses a range of indicators to describe in detail the adult education and training policies and provision in EU countries, with a focus on the most vulnerable groups of adult learners, in particular those lacking basic skills or with low level or no qualifications.

Financing the adult learning sector

The study analyses the different approaches to funding adult learning in a number of EU countries, compared with other parts of the world. It examines different sources of finance and different kinds of funding instruments and makes recommendations to policymakers.

Opening Higher Education to Adults

The study uses examples of good practice from 15 countries to examine ways in which higher education can be made more flexible and therefore more accessible to people later in life.

Key competences for adult learning professionals

The study is based on an analysis of good practice in several countries. It identifies the key competences required by different professionals working in the adult learning sector, including not only teaching, but also management and programme development. The study can be used to develop competence profiles adult education staff.

Continuing Vocational Education and Training in Europe – the way ahead

This publication synthesises recent research on Continuing Vocational Education and Training (CVET). It analyses how CVET contributes to economic and social policy objectives, outlines major achievements in CVET practices and policies and highlights policy gaps and challenges that remain to be addressed.

Work-based learning in continuing vocational education and training: policies and practices in Europe

This publication is based on a study of medium-sized enterprises in six countries. It analyses policies and practices of work-based learning in C-VET, describes the main forms and patterns of WBL for CVET, and identifies the main advantages, needs and challenges.

Upskilling Unemployed Adults - the organisation, profiling and targeting of training provision

This review is based on reports on 33 countries. It describes the funding, governance and implementation of training interventions for unemployed adults, draws lessons about good practice, outlines the challenges encountered by training programmes and presents recommendations.