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EPALE - Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe


Employability and transitions in Adult Education: the outcomes of a comparative group work within the COMPALL Project

by Alessandra Cecc...
Language: EN
Document available also in: NL


group of students

Article by Prof. Vanna Boffo & Dr. Gaia Gioli

Since 2016, the Strategic Partnership Comparative Studies on Adult and Lifelong Learning (COMPALL) is developing a Joint Module programme for Master’s and Doctoral Students involved in Adult Education, that goes under the name of International Winter School[1].

The International Winter School, that takes place every February at the University of Wuerzburg, has its vision in the creation of a European community of Adult Education that is able to compare and learn from the best practices at a global level, being inclusive and democratic. In this sense the actions undertaken go in the direction of analyzing and comparing international and European strategies in lifelong learning during the Winter School.

The didactical model adopted sees the organization of the Winter school in two main parts. During the first part of the Winter School, theories and approaches are introduced for analysing European and international lifelong learning strategies, through also the concrete interactions with key European stakeholders in lifelong learning (i.e. EAEA, Cedefop, DAAD…). During the second part, the Winter School focuses on the comparison of selected topics in adult education in small groups. Within this part, the University of Florence research unit suggested to work on the comparison of policies and practices for the development of young adults’ employability at higher education level (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2014) at a theoretical and practical level.

The topic of comparative adult education and lifelong learning represents a strategic challenge for adult education studies and it is tightly linked with the acquisition of lifelong learning skills that can support Masters’ and PhD students in their process of construction of employability. The latter is highly relevant, since it involves the crucial transition from university to the labour market. In broad terms, that specific transition influences the entrance into adulthood through the acquisition of autonomy and economical independence (Eurofound, 2014). In this sense, supporting the transition towards the labour market through the development of employability is a key issue for the adult education research field (Federighi, 2013) and for the sustainability of the global network of Adult Education.

In the pedagogical literature, the term employability has been intensively and extensively studied by Lee Harvey (Harvey, 2003) and Mantz Yorke (Yorke, 2006). It does not only refer to the ability of gaining and maintaining a job, but to the capability of succeeding in career, achieving success to face labour market transformation and to benefit the company and society as well. In such a complex international framework, Higher Education is becoming responsible for the development of these specific capabilities: as a matter of fact, in recent years, the number of institutions that implemented employability programs within the curriculum or work-related learning approaches is continuously increasing.

Starting from this theoretical point of view, and its implication into current national and international policies, some group works not only focused their attention on employability as the final goal of the Winter School, but also worked on employability through a comparative analysis (Bray, 2005) at macro level (international and national policies and laws) and meso level (strategies and measures implemented by universities). The focus was the concrete experiences of participants and on their home countries reality (Italy, Nigeria, Denmark and Germany).

The outcomes of the comparative analysis confirmed that the employability challenge has arisen in last decades especially in countries with high youth unemployment rates. The interest and the research on this subject, that interrelates both adult and higher education in an innovative pedagogical perspective, are particularly fruitful in those countries. On the other side, all the analysed countries present measures and practices aimed at creating a stronger link between universities and the world of work. All the experiences showed that these new tendencies are producing a shift in higher education towards a learner-centered approach: work-related teaching methods (Dirkx, 2011), Career Service activities (Dey, Cruzvergara, 2014), specific didactical programs within the curriculum (Yorke, Knight, 2006) are just some examples of universities future trends that will focus more on students’ future careers starting from the relationship between educational institutions and the labour market.


Prof. Vanna Boffo
Dr. Gaia Gioli
PhD Student Carlo Terzaroli
University of Florence


Bray, M., (2005), ‘Methodology and Focus in Comparative Education’, in Bray, M., Ramsey, K., (2005), Education and Society in Hong Kong and Macao: Comparative Perspectives on Continuity and Change, Dordrecht: Springer.

Dey, F., & Cruzvergara, C. Y., (2014). Evolution of career services in higher education. In New Directions for Student Services, 148, pp. 5-18.

Dirkx, J.M., (2011), Work-related learning in the United States: Past practices, paradigm shifts, and policies of partnerships. In The SAGE Handbook of Workplace Learning (pp. 293-306). SAGE Publications Inc..

Eurofound, (2014), Mapping youth transitions in Europe, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, (2014), Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe: Access, Retention and Employability 2014. Eurydice Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Federighi, P., (2013), Adult and continuing education in Europe. Pathways for a skill growth governance, Brussels: European Commission.

Harvey, L., (ed.), (2003), Transitions from higher education to work, A briefing paper, (20th March 2017).

Yorke, M., (2006), Employability in higher education: what it is – what it is not, York: ESECT and The Higher Education Academy.

Yorke, M., Knight, P.T., (2006), Embedding employability into the curriculum. York: The Higher Education Academy.

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International Winter School 2017 (February 6-17): Detailed working programme and speakers

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