EU's Role & Support

EU's Role & Support

How does the EU support people and projects in adult learning?

There are many ways in which the EU supports the adult learning sector in Europe – from commissioning research and sharing good practices to promoting innovations and funding the upskilling of individuals.

What is the EU’s role in adult learning?

In the timeline below you can see how the EU has promoted adult learning over the years. The timeline includes highlights, such as important policy publications and initiatives.


Council Resolution on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training towards the European Education Area and beyond 


European Skills Agenda prioritises adult up- and reskilling, including skills for life, empowerment through individual financing mechanisms, and ambitious objectives for adult participation in learning

Digital Education Action Plan, 2021-27 widens scope to cover non-formal and lifelong learning, focus on digital competence and digital capacity building of institutions, including for adult learners and professionals

European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience - Brussels, 1.7.2020 , COM(2020) 274 final

Achieving the European Education Area by 2025 – Commission Communication

COM(2020) 625 final, Brussels, 30.9.32020

Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027): Resetting education and training for the digital age


Commission took stock of implementation measures in a staff working document

Council adopts conclusions renewing its commitment to support adults struggling with basic skills 

Commission Staff working document on Council Recommendation on Upskilling Pathways: New Opportunities for Adults. Taking stock of implementation measures, Brussels, 27.2.2019 SWD(2019) 89 final.


Member States outlined their measures to implement Upskilling Pathways.

EAAL is part of the 'ET2020' framework for European cooperation in education and training. The ET2020 working group on adult learning 2016 - 2018 undertakes peer learning on policies that can encourage more adults to learn in the workplace.


On 19 December the Council adopts the recommendation Upskilling Pathways - New opportunities for adults. This aims to help Europe's 64 million adults who do not yet have an upper secondary qualification to acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills and then progress towards an upper or lower secondary qualification.

The New Skills Agenda for Europe proposes that Member States adopt a Skills Guarantee to raise the level of adult basic skills.


The 2015-2020 priorities for EAAL are set:

  • ensuring the coherence of adult learning with other policy areas
  • increasing the supply and take-up of adult learning provision
  • widening access through workplace-based learning, ICT and second-chance opportunities
  • improving quality assurance, including initial and continuing education of adult educators.

The Council publishes a resolution on a renewed European Agenda on Adult Learning (EAAL), consolidating policy in the field of adult learning. This is the EU reference text on adult learning policy.

A key message of EAAL is that adult learning in all its forms boosts learners’ employability, and contributes to social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development. Increasing participation and enabling all adults to develop and renew their skills and competences throughout their lives are at the heart of the Agenda.


The Commission publishes the communication It is always a good time to learn. It includes an Action Plan on Adult Learning (2008-2010) that provides, for the first time, common priorities to be encouraged in the adult learning sector.


The Commission publishes the communication It is never too late to learn highlighting the essential contribution of adult learning to employability and mobility and to social inclusion.


The Council of the European Union publishes its Resolution on Lifelong Learning, highlighting the ‘cradle-to-grave’ principle of education and its provision in different environments.


The EU begins working on adult learning policy.


EU’s work on adult learning begins with the Treaty of Rome through which the European Community promoted basic and advanced vocational training.