The relationship between lifelong learning and social justice, two pillars of the EU educational and social policy, raises many dilemmas. The concept of lifelong learning was initially meant, in the 1960s, as an opportunity for adults and a tool for strengthening social cohesion and achieving a greater level of justice and equality. Some twenty years ago the EU added a new emphasis on lifelong learning as a means of enhancing economic competiveness. Important shifts in culture, technology and demography have further shaped the concept. The principle of lifelong learning and the Knowledge Based Economy are supported by a Europe which aspires to be “smart, sustainable and inclusive”, but across Europe significant sections of the population, especially in historically disadvantaged communities and vulnerable groups, remain heavily under-represented at the highest levels of qualification and are excluded from participation to learning, work, social life and active citizenship. The severe consequences of social and educational inequality include mental health problems, depression and hopelessness. Specific groups, for example young precarious workers and many migrants, also suffer from the effects of inequality.
The current definition of lifelong learning has been criticized for the increasing focus on ‘employability’, the push to adaptation of learners to the needs of rapidly changing labour markets, and the dismission of the diverse needs of different citizens. Decent employment is of vital importance, but ensuring good work also depends on developing creativity, fostering dialogue, and advancing equality. Social justice and meaningful lifelong learning, for all citizens no matter their origins, gender, physical limits or disabilities, economic and social vulnerability, are key concepts for researching education in contemporary society. In the summer school, critical reflection and interdisciplinary imagination will sustain the development of new, open and more effective research and intervention.
Dilemmas of research will also be tackled: in methodologies (increasingly mixed, merged, participatory, co-operative, and innovative); in approaches (using big data, experimental and evidence-based inquiry alongside critical, constructivist and participatory research); in interdisciplinarity and meeting stakeholders outside the university.
The summer school proposes a cooperative, dialogic and project-oriented working method. During 5 days, all participants will be invited to present their work, to develop practical skills and competences in workshops, to reflect on research epistemology and methodology, and to share an experience of cooperative design. The program entails a small number of keynotes and lectures by guest participants, methodological workshops, peer-review of PhD projects, reflexive groups, project work, pop-up spaces for spontaneous dialogue and informal activity, a final symposium on the future of research.