Policy Studies in Adult Education

Aims and themes of the network

Developments in adult education policy are subject to two major trends:

1) the phenomenon of globalization and the accompanying trans-nationalization of education policy making, and

2) a renewed pressure for strategic and policy relevant research.

These trends are related but each brings forth a different set of issues that pertain to policy studies in adult education.

The PSAE network is committed to on-going dialogue, development and impact of policies on adult education, and of research of adult education policy. It welcomes discussion from different perspectives and traditions on the state of research and policy in adult education, including methodological and epistemological discussions. Further, it supports advancement of the theoretical base for studying various policy issues relevant to adult learning, and encourages, inter alia, research on the European Union’s role in adult educational policy. Finally, it fosters a forum that can generate systematic comparative criticism of policies in adult education, not least through the development of grant proposals for empirical research projects in the area.

The PSAE network meets at least on a biennial basis (once every two years) to exchange and share ideas and experiences, as opportunities arise and funds permit.

In connection to its own or other ESREA conferences, the network facilitates ‘policy dialogues’ between participants and representatives from governmental and non-governmental international organizations, through the organization of panel discussions, round tables or the like on policy-relevant issues, publications, and processes.

For any further information or inquiries, please contact the network through their official e-mail address: esrea.psae@gmail.com

History of the network

Established in 2008 by Richard Desjardins, John Holford, and Vida A. Mohorčič-Špolar, the PSAE network was launched the next year with a symposium aimed at reflecting collectively on some key trends affecting the study of adult education policy, hosted at the (then) Danish School of Education (2009/Copenhagen). Over time the convenorship has changed: Richard Desjardins left in 2010, Vida A. Mohorčič-Špolar in 2022, and John Holford in 2023. Pepka Boyadjieva served as joint convenor in 2022-2023. The current convenors serve in this capacity since 2010 (Marcella Milana), 2017 (Rosanna Barros) and 2023 (Margherita Bussi and Borut Mikulec).

In addition to dedicated symposia during the ESREA triennial conferences, the network has organised the following conferences and webinars: 

  • 2021 (9, 11, 16 June). Series of Webminar: Number 1 – “Critical Voices Between PIAAC and New Literacy Studies”; Number 2 – “Lifelong Learning, Global Social Justice and Sustainability”, and Number 3 – “Study of Adult Education in Different Political Contexts and the Impact of Political Context on Research into Adult Education”.
  • 2019 (May). Charles University, Check Republic: “Adult Education and Learning Policy in a World Risk Society”;
  • 2012 (10-12 February), University of Nottingham, United Kingdom: “Trans-nationalization of Educational Policy Making: Implications for Adult & Lifelong Learning” (Inaugural conference);
  • 2014 (10-18 June), Aalborg University, Denmark: “Interrogating Sustainability in Adult Learning Policy: European and Global Perspectives”;
  • 2017 (8-10 June), University of Verona, Italy: “Equity, Social Justice and Adult Education and Learning Policy

    Some recent activities of the network

    During the European Skills Week in 2019, the VETNET network and the ESREA Policy Study network joined forces in running a Researchers’ workshop. The report is now available.



    Rosanna Barros  University of Algarve

    Margherita Bussi Université catholique de Louvain

    Marcella Milana  University of Verona

    Borut Mikulec
    University of Ljubljana


    ESREA series

    Milana, M., & Holford, H. (Eds.) (2014). Adult Education Policy and the European Union: Theoretical and Methodological Perspectives. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

    Edited books produced by the network

    Milana, M., Holford, J. & Mohorčič Špolar, V. (Eds.) (2016). Adult and Lifelong Education: Global, national and local perspectives. London: Routledge.

    Journal’s special issues guest edited by the network

    Capitalism(s) and the future of adult education policy, European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults – RELA, Vol. 12 No. 1 (2021) 

    Adult education and migrations: Migrants a mixed bag?, Journal of Adult and Continuing Education (2020) 

    Vulnerability in and of adult education, Scuola Democratica, Vol 2 (2019) 

    Responsibility, Participation and Social Justice in Adult Education, Encyclopaideia, Vol 23, No 53 (2019)

    International organizations, adult education policy, and the “common good”, Studies in the Education of Adults, Vol. 50 NO. 2 (2018)

    Societal sustainability: The contribution of adult education to sustainable societies, International Review of Education, Vol. 62, No. 5 (2016)

    Public Policy and the ‘Sustainability’ of Adult Education, Encyclopaideia, Vol. XVIII, No. 4 (2014)

    Adult and Lifelong Education: The European Union, its member states and the world, International Journal of Lifelong Education, Vol., 3, No. 3 (2014)

    Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in Post-communist Countries, European Education, Vol. 46, No. 4 (2014)

    Adult and lifelong education: Global, national and local perspectives, Globalisation, Societies and Education, Vol. 12, No. 1 (2013)