Opportunities for Lifelong Learning

Marlies van der Meer
Author: Marlies van der Meer

At LLInC, our learning experts are invested in exploring existing curricula. One particular area of interest is the re-evaluation of universities’ roles in delivering education across an individual’s lifespan and this comes with good reason. Lifelong Learning (LLL) is rapidly becoming the norm across the entire workforce and it is important that this be reflected across our universities.

So far, ‘Professional Learning’ has primarily been the domain of commercial educators yet, increasingly, it appears logical for (Dutch) universities to pursue a stronger position in this arena. This proposition is raised owing not only to their impressive knowledge and expertise across various disciplines, but also their already established crucial role in education.

In this series of blogs, we would like to involve you in LLInC’s vision on this theme. Let’s start with an introduction.


As early as 2011, Redecker et. al. presented an overall vision of education in 2025 in a European report which, in essence, revolved around Lifelong Learning. For them, personalisation, collaboration, and informalisation (a shift towards informal learning) stands at the core of learning in the future. [1]

Pieter Duisenberg, chairman of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands, is a strong advocate of recognising a fourth formal mission for Dutch universities in addition to their existing three statutory missions: Education, Research, and Valorisation.

He proposes a change in legislation to officially recognise Lifelong Learning as an additional core mission for Dutch Universities – a change which ought to facilitate alumni remaining more involved with their university after graduation. This could come in the form of such alumni taking up courses which would help them develop and build their skill set in the dynamic professional world. These may be funded by their employer.

The term “60-Year Curriculum” (60YC – as introduced by Gary Matlin of the University of California, Irvine) offers an inspiring perspective on Lifelong Learning which universities can use to prolong their relationship with learners throughout their entire career (Branon, 2018).

The 60YC refers to “a new continuing education-focused perspective that will cover six decades of employment and requires Lifelong Learning in the context of multiple career changes and transitions.” [2]


At any given point in a person’s life, opportunities may arise either to recognise prior learning or find ‘just in time’ solutions to bring one’s level of expertise up to date. The Dutch government proposes the following drivers for Lifelong Learning:

  • Changing vocational market 
  • Shortage of labour power in some sectors 
  • International influences 
  • Fair chances for everyone 
  • Increasing complexity of society 

Most of these are shaped by the demands of a modern knowledge economy but, of course, personal motives are influential too. The dynamic nature of these drivers presents an intriguing challenge: the creation of a curriculum that is agile, allows for tailor-made solutions, and which may change ‘just in time’ (JIT). It’s a bit like preparing athletes for the Olympics without knowing quite yet which competition they will be entering.

For those keen to delve deeper into Lifelong Learning and its driving forces, the review article by Laal & Salamati [3] provides an excellent starting point. The authors point out that “if we do not continue to grow and develop; we will soon be left behind. In the 21st century, we all need to be lifelong learners”. In other words: Lifelong Learning helps teachers and other skilled professionals to adapt to the ever changing world.


Building upon these insights, it becomes apparent that Lifelong Learning requires the adoption of a growth mindset.

While Dweck and Yeager (2019) note that those with fixed mindsets perceive qualities such as intelligence to be largely fixed post formal education, they also note that those with growth mindsets perceive these same qualities as able to be continuously developed. [4]

Fortunately, training can help a great deal. Instruments developed at LLInC, such as the Wellbeing Boosters, Design Thinking methodology, and Learning Mindset are well-known and popular examples.

Promoting a growth mindset is intrinsically linked to the principles of positive psychology, accentuating the power of positive affirmations and motivational theories. Key to this is attributing successes internally while externalising failures – a trait seen in many successful people. As Fischer (2000) points out, in order to promote and facilitate Lifelong Learning, it is important to actively help learners shape their mindset and develop new, constructive learning habits. [5] Two important elements mentioned by Fisher are ‘conceptual frameworks’ and ‘innovative computational environments’. These are precisely what we are building through our platform for Lifelong Learning at LLInC.


Seamlessly shifting to yet another crucial facet of Lifelong Learning, let’s address the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). Lifelong Learning is a rich tapestry of formal and informal experiences. Informal Learning can be formalised via RPL procedures, known as EVC (“Erkenning van (eerder) verworven competenties”) within the Dutch context.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is about recognising and appreciating an individual’s learning gains and acquired competences, regardless of where or how and where they were obtained. [6] With RPL, individuals can have their expertise (acquired through work, life experience, or non-formal education or training) assessed and recognised in order to gain higher qualifications. This considerably improves their chances and value on the labour market.

Within higher education, RPL can be used for entry to programmes, advanced entry, exemptions for certain parts of a programme, and granting micro credentials, amongst much else. It is important to keep this in mind when discussing the topic of Lifelong Learning.


This concludes our introduction to the topic of Lifelong Learning, in which we have shared some of the main considerations and general developments to bring you up to speed. If you would like to learn more, stay tuned for the next edition or feel free to get in touch with us!



[1] Redecker C., Leis M., Leendertse M., Punie Y., Gijsbers G., Kirschner P., Stoyanov S., Hoogveld B. (2011) The Future of Learning: Preparing for Change. EUR 24960 EN. Luxembourg (Luxembourg): Publications Office of the European Union; JRC66836 

[2] Branon, R.F. (2018)  Learning for a Lifetime: A 100-year life requires a 60-year curriculum In: Richards, J., & Dede, C. (2018) The 60-Year Curriculum. https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2018/11/16/why-longer-lives-require-relevant-accessible-curricula-throughout-long-careers 

[3] Laal, M. & Salamati, P. (2012) Lifelong learning; why do we need it? Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 31:399-403. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.12.073 

[4] Dweck, C. S., & Yeager, D. S. (2019). Mindsets: A View from Two Eras. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(3), 481–496. https://doi.org/https://journals-sagepub-com.ezproxy.leidenuniv.nl/doi/10.1177/1745691618804166  

[5] Fischer G. (2000) Lifelong learning – More than training. Journal of Interactive Learning Research 11(3/4):265-294. 

[6] RPL – a framework of … https://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2023/03/Framework-Summary.pdf 

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