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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 innovation and funding the upskilling of adults.

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 Recommendation of 16 June 2022 on individual learning accounts outlines how Member States can combine financial and non-financial support in an effective way to empower all adults to develop their skills throughout working life, and progress towards the Porto adult learning targets. The Recommendation was underpinned by an impact assessment.
Council Recommendation of 16 June 2022 on a European approach to micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability defines a common definition of and a standard format for describing the outcomes of short courses, in order to increase transparency and facilitate the communication of skills acquired during training throughout the working life.
Council Resolution on a new European agenda for adult learning 2021-2030 outlines a vision of how adult learning should develop in Europe by 2030. The main priority areas are:
  • governance
  • supply and take-up of lifelong learning opportunities
  • accessibility and flexibility
  • quality, equity, inclusion and success in adult learning
  • the green and digital transitions
Council Resolution on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training towards the European Education Area and beyond outlines how European cooperation can further enrich the quality, inclusiveness and digital and green dimension of the EU education and training systems.
On 25 June 2021, the European Council welcomes the EU headline targets of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan and the Porto Declaration. Leaders thereby support the ambition that at least 60% of all adults should participate in training every year by 2030.
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


Achieving the European Education Area by 2025 – Commission Communication sets out a vision to achieve the European Education Area by 2025 and presents the concrete steps to deliver on this ambition.


Member States outlined their measures to implement Upskilling Pathways. Based on that the Commission took stock of Upskilling Pathways implementation measures in Commission Staff working document on Council Recommendation on Upskilling Pathways: New Opportunities for Adults. Taking stock of implementation measures.
Council adopts conclusions renewing its commitment to support adults struggling with basic skills Council conclusions on the implementation of the Council Recommendation on Upskilling Pathways: New Opportunities for Adults.

Member States outlined their measures to implement Upskilling Pathways.

At the Gothenburg social summit, The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission proclaim the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Pillar sets out 20 key principles which represent the beacon guiding us towards a strong social Europe that is fair, inclusive and full of opportunity in the 21st century. Adult learning has a central role in the Pillar, as its first principle is the right to “quality and inclusive education, training and life-long learning”.
On 19 December the Council adopts the recommendation Upskilling Pathways - New opportunities for adults. This aims to help Europe's 64 million adults (EU 28) 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  introduced a  plan how to work together to strengthen human capital, employability and competitiveness. Among others it proposed that Member States adopt a Skills Guarantee (later named Upskilling Pathways) to raise the level of adult basic skills.

The 2015-2020 priorities for European Agenda on Adult learning 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 published a resolution on a renewed European Agenda on Adult Learning , consolidating policy in the field of adult learning.

A key message of European Agenda on Adult learning 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.