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John Holford is Robert Peers Professor of Adult Education. A Sociologist who has spent most of his career in adult education, his research has focussed chiefly on the role of lifelong education in the formation of citizens, communities and social movements. His main current research interests are in adult learning of citizenship, especially in Europe, policy processes for the education of adults, especially in the European Union, and the history of adult education and citizenship in Britain. His earlier work has covered learning in trade unions and social movements, lifelong learning in South East Asia, the history of adult education in the British colonies, and the historical sociology of labour.

He is Co-ordinator of the Horizon 2020 research project, ENLIVEN (Encouraging Lifelong Learning for an Inclusive & Vibrant Europe: 2016-2019). He has been a partner in several previous EU research projects, including LLLight'in'Europe, LLL2010, Includ-Ed, and Etgace (which he also co-ordinated).

His books include The Palgrave International Handbook on Adult and Lifelong Education and Learning (co-editor, 2017), Adult Education Policy and the European Union: Theoretical and Methodological Perspectives (co-editor, 2014), Adult and Lifelong Education: Global, National and Local Perspectives Citizenship (co-editor, 2014), Lifelong Learning in Europe: National Patterns and Challenges (co-editor, 2013), Patterns of Lifelong Learning: Policy & Practice in an Expanding Europe (co-author, 2008), The Theory and Practice of Learning (co-author, 1998, 2nd edition, 2003), International Perspectives on Lifelong Learning (co-editor, 1998), Union Education in Britain (author, 1994), Reshaping Labour (author, 1988). He has also edited or co-edited many journal special issues, including: Lifelong Learning and Higher Education in Europe 1995-2011: Widening and/or Narrowing Access? (2014), Adult and Lifelong Education: The European Union, its member states and the world (2014), Citizenship, Learning and Education (2009).

He is Editor of the International Journal of Lifelong Education (Routledge), and a member of the editorial boards of the International Review of Education (UNESCO/Wiley), Adult Education Quarterly (Sage/American Association for Adult and Continuing Education) and the Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education.

He is President of the International Society for Comparative Adult Education (, and joint Convenor of the European Society (ESREA) for Network on Policy Studies in Adult Education ( He is an Honorary Professor at the University of Hong Kong (, and a Governor of West Notts College, Mansfield (, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Nepal Studies (UK) (

Before taking up the Robert Peers Chair of Adult Education in 2007, he was (successively) Professor of Politics and Education and Head of Law & Politics, Politics and Educational Studies at the University of Surrey. He also served on the University's Council, Senate, Finance & General Purposes, Research and other committees, and was Chair of its Academic Assembly (1999-2003). Before joining Surrey he worked with the University of Hong Kong's School of Professional and Continuing Education and the Workers' Educational Association.

For further information and some publications, see You can follow him on twitter at @john_holford

Research Summary

My current research is in two main areas:

Lifelong learning policy: its formation, significance and impact, especially in the European Union. This includes:

Co-ordinator of the Horizon 2020 project, ENLIVEN (Encouraging Lifelong Learning for an Inclusive and VIbrant Europe, 2016-2019)

The role of participation and motivation in adult learning

Processes of adult learning policy in the European Union

Significance of measures and indicators in adult learning policy

Interactions between adults and higher education. This includes

Historical studies of adult education and its relations with social and intellectual movements

Relations between adult and higher education, and the changing role of "the university".

Changing conceptions of "community engagement", especially in the "global university"

Selected Publications

HOLFORD, JOHN, 2014. The lost honour of the Social Dimension: Bologna, exports and the idea of the universityInternational Journal of Lifelong Education. 33(1), 7-25

HOLFORD, JOHN and WELIKALA, T., 2013. 'Renaissance' without enlightenment: New Labour’s 'Learning Age' 1997-2010. In: SAAR, E., URE, O.B. and HOLFORD, J., eds., Lifelong learning in Europe: national patterns and challenges Edward Elgar.

HOLFORD, JOHN, 2016. The misuses of sustainability: Adult education, citizenship and the dead hand of neoliberalism International Review of Education. 62(5), 541–561

MILANA, MARCELLA and HOLFORD, JOHN, eds., 2014. Adult Education Policy and the European Union: Theoretical and Methodological Perspectives Sense Publishers.


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