Access, Learning Careers and Identities

Aims and themes of the network

The network focus is on access into learning and experiences of learning in a range of educational settings such community education, vocational education, further and higher education. It also explores the impact of biography and lifelong learning in shaping learning careers and how this process and experiences may lead to changing self and identities. This raises issues of structure and agency and their interaction by taking into account the socio-economic positions in which adult learners are located and the actions that they take to develop their learning identity and career within a particular educational institution. In doing so the network examines the different conceptual approaches to understanding learning careers and learning identities.
The network provides a forum for adult educators from a range of disciplines to discuss and debate the issues in relation to theory, policy and practice.

History of the network

This network was established in 1996 and a first network conference was held at the University of Leeds in the UK. At that time the network was called the Access research network reflecting the focus of adult education research at that time. The conference book publication entitled Participation and Organisational Change (Hill & Merrill, 1997) illuminates the narrow theme of the network as it only addressed access and participation in higher education. The network convenors were Chris Duke, Etienne Bourgeois and Barbara Merrill. This focus of the network continued to dominate the following two network conferences in Barcelona and Edinburgh. Subsequent network conferences (held every two years) were located at University of Barcelona (2000) for a second time, Louvain University, Belgium (2006), University of Seville, Spain (2008), University of Aveiro, Portugal (2011), Linkôping, Sweden (2013) and again at the University of Seville (2015).
Ten years later responding to the changing nature of European adult education research and literature which was moving beyond research just on access and participation to other wider concerns and concepts the network name was changed to Access, Learning Careers and Identity.
The network is now convened by three co-ordinators: Barbara Merrill University of Warwick, UK), Andrea Galimberti (University Milano Bicocca, Italy) and Adrianna Nizińska (Gothenburg University, Sweden). The network aims to meet every two years.


Antonio Fragoso  Algarve University

Andrea Galimberti

University of Milano-Bicocca

Barbara MerrillUniversity of Warwick


ESREA series

Merrill, B. (2009). Learning to Change? The Role of Identity and Learning Careers in Adult Education. Frankfurt-am-Main: Peter Lang.

Edited books produced by the network

Merrill, B. (1997). Access, Equity, Participation and Organisational Change. Warwick: University of Warwick.

Merrill, B., González Monteagudo, J. (2010). Educational Journeys and Changing Lives: Adult Student Experiences, Vol. 1. Seville: University of Seville.

Merril, B., González Monteagudo, J. (2010). Educational Journeys and Changing Lives: Adult Student Experiences, Vol. 2. Seville: University of Seville.

Conference proceedings

Merrill, B., Vieira, C., Galimberti, A., Nizinska, A. (2020). Adult education as a resource for resistance and transformation: Voices, learning experiences, identities of student and adult educators. Coimbra: University of Coimbra/ University of Algarve/ ESREA. 

Merrill, B. (2011). ESREA conference Aveiro. Book of proceedings. Transitions and identity in learning life. Aveiro: University of Warwick & University of Aveiro.

Merrill, B. (Ed.) (2013). Transitions and Identity in Learning Life. Aveiro: University of Warwick & University of Aveiro.

Merrill, B., Gonzàlez Monteagudo, J., Nizinska, A., Galimberti, A., Ballesteros-Moscosio, M.A. (Eds.) (2017). Adult learning, educational careers and social change. Seville: University of Seville.