Just Can’t get Enough – Lifelong Learning in Erasmus+

It’s Lifelong Learning Week from 20-24 November 2017. New research from the RAY Network shows that Erasmus+: Youth in Action is helping make a European Lifelong Learning area a reality. In this blog post Steven Murray, Impact Assessor at the UK National Agency, shares some of the outcomes from this latest research. 


In 2006 the European Parliament and the Council adopted the Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning. This aimed to help to develop quality education and training that was relevant to the current and future needs of Europe.

The recommendation proposed eight key competences for lifelong learning that individuals would need for personal fulfilment and development, active citizenship, social inclusion and employment. The key competences are considered relevant for all education and training sectors as well as non-formal and informal learning.

The eight key competences (KC) are:

  • Communication in the mother tongue (KC1)

  • Communication in foreign languages (KC2)

  • Mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology (KC3)

  • Digital competence (KC4)

  • Learning to learn (KC5)

  • Social and civic competences (KC6)

  • Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship (KC7)

  • Cultural awareness and expression (KC8)

In the UK, the Government Office for Science is conducting a Foresight project exploring the future of skills and lifelong learning in a changing world. In one of the Foresight project evidence papers, the authors conclude that the UK needs policies that help “individuals develop, maintain and improve skills proficiency to support an extended working life”. They argue that “by providing individuals with the competencies and attributes to be career adaptable, the system is creating a workforce that is more resilient and better able to manage and positively respond to a changing labour market”.

So now seems a good time to explore how Erasmus+ is helping participants gain these Key Competences for Lifelong Learning and how they are becoming more flexible and resilient as a result.

The research

The UK National Agency is a member of the RAY network – a group of Erasmus+ National Agencies and their research partners established in 2007 to undertake research with participants of European Commission youth programmes.

Surveys carried out by the RAY network have indicated that participants in youth mobility programmes show high levels of skills development since they began in 2007. The latest findings, covering 2014-15 and the first years of the Erasmus+ programme, continue to demonstrate this.

In the latest report, the research team mapped the skills developed by participants against the Key Competences for Lifelong Learning and Media Literacy.

Use Table 1 (below) to explore the different skills developed by Erasmus+ Key Action 1 and Key Action 3 youth participants. Hover over the chart to read the full details of the skill developed and to see the individual data points.

They found that there was strong evidence that Erasmus+ youth mobility participants were gaining skills relevant to the Key Competences. A majority of participants self-reported that they had improved a range of skills through their participation in the project. This finding was corroborated across the board when project leaders were asked to verify those same skills improved by participants.

It is not surprising that participants improve their ability 'to communicate with people who speak another language' (KC2) as this is a central purpose of Erasmus+. What may surprise some observers is the extent to which participants improve skills relevant to the other Key Competences.

Erasmus+ participants improve multiple skills relevant to social and civic competences (KC6), in particular their ability 'to get along with people who have a different cultural background'. In terms of their sense of initiative and entrepreneurship (KC7), participants saw improvements in their ability 'to cooperate in a team'.

Why is this important?

The survey shows that participating in Erasmus+ mobility isn’t only valuable for training and development opportunities. It also helps people gain the skills they need to learn effectively and which allow them to maximise the benefits of their mobility experiences. Erasmus+ is improving the skills, and by extension, the employability of young people involved in the programme. In doing so, it is providing a valuable contribution to both UK and European policy priorities in education and training and in tackling youth development and unemployment. 

To discover more how Erasmus+ youth funding contributes to the development of employability skills, visit our Erasmus+ stories webpage.



Barnes, S. et al (2016), Education as the Underpinning System: Understanding the propensity for learning across the lifetime, Government Office for Science: London, pp22-23. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/skills-and-lifelong-learning-learning-across-the-lifetime

Bammer, D. et al (2017), Exploring Erasmus+ Youth in Action: effects and outcomes of the Erasmus+ Youth in Action Programme from the perspectives of project participants and project leaders, RAY Network: Vienna, pp12-14.

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