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Mapping Lifelong Learning Attributes in the Context of Higher Education Institutions

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Abstract

Over the past four decades lifelong learning has been an important concept in educational policy, so much so that it has become one of the essential guiding principles in almost all of the educational reforms. Accompanying its popularity amongst policy makers, however, has been a perennial debate among academics concerning the viability of the concept as a researchable construct. Such debates have also focused on addressing the conceptual issues surrounding lifelong learning. In particular, there have been only limited numbers of studies aimed at understanding what really constitute the attributes of lifelong learners in the context of higher education. Despite much rhetoric about the significance of lifelong learning as a policy goal, there is a dearth of studies focusing on exploring the possible ways in which educational institutions can really achieve this goal of policy. This article aims at contributing to these debates, in an attempt to address issues associated with the challenges of developing a conceptual framework for understanding the indicators that provide quantifiable measures of lifelong learning. In particular, the article focuses on examining the individual, social and economic dimensions of lifelong learning that are fostered in higher education institutions. The article seeks to provide an understanding of possible ways in which higher learning institutions can concretise lifelong learning and move from rhetorical commitments to action.
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Mapping Lifelong Learning Attributes in the Context of Higher Education Institutions
Mwaikokesya, M.J.D, Osborne, M. & Houston, M.
Abstract
In recent years there has been an increased attention to lifelong learning considering it
as an important concept in educational policy, such that the concept has became one of
the essential guiding principles in almost all of the educational reforms. Accompanying
its popularity however, has been a perennial debate among scholars concerning the
viability of this concept as a researchable construct. Such scholarly debates have also
focused on addressing the conceptual issues surrounding lifelong learning. As a result of
complexity of lifelong learning as a researchable concept, so far, there have been only
limited studies aimed at understanding what really constitute the attributes of lifelong
learners in the context of higher education. Despite much rhetoric about the significance
of lifelong learning as a policy goal, yet there is a dearth of studies that focus on
exploring the possible ways in which educational institutions can really achieve this
policy agenda. This article aims at contributing to these debates, in an attempt to address
issues associated with challenges of developing a conceptual framework for
understanding the indicators that provide lifelong learning quantifiable measures. In
particular, the article focuses on examining the individual, social and economic
dimensions of lifelong learning that are fostered in higher education institutions. This
article seems to be important since it can help in understanding possible ways from
which higher learning institutions can concretize lifelong learning and move from
rhetorical commitments to action.
Background
In 1970, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) issued
a global report, Learning to Be (Faure et al., 1972, p. 182) stressing that, ‘we propose lifelong
education as the master concept for educational policies in the years to come for both developed
and developing countries. Since the publication of this report, there has been a huge interest to
transform educational establishments into institutions of lifelong learning aimed at creating
graduates who are capable of learning, not only during their time as students but more
importantly, being able to continue learning beyond their formal schooling environment
throughout their lives. More recently, with the publication of another seminal UNESCO report,
Learning: the treasure within (Delors et al., 1996), there has been increased attention to the
importance of lifelong learning as a guiding principle for educational reforms. One of the
possible reasons for this increased attention has been the increased pressure from such forces as
globalization and information and technological revolution, which have been witnessed in most
societies, and have substantially impacted and transformed our living styles (Banya, 2010, Field,
2006). Accompanying these changes, has been a shift in considering the responsibility for
learning from the focus on institution as a solely responsible for effecting learning, into a focus
on individuals as responsible for their own learning (Field, 2003). Within the context of rapid
socio-economic, cultural and technological changes, it is widely acknowledged that individuals
should possess unique skills that would allow them to compete in the increasingly globalised
world. In particular it has been argued that it is important that individuals should possess lifelong
learning skills as an essential way of coping with ones daily lives. Consequently, there has been
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an increased effort for educational institutions to promote what has been known as lifelong
learning attributes (Candy et al., 1994; Hager & Holland, 2006).
In the literature, the concept of lifelong learning attributes is sometimes used interchangeably
with the concept of graduate attributes’, as well as, meta-skills or generic skills (Barrie,
2004). Hager & Holland, 2006 define the graduate attributes as a diverse range of skills,
knowledge and temperaments possessed by students. Similarly Bowden et al., 2000) consider the
graduate attributes as the qualifications and skills regarded by a particular university community
to be essential for students to develop while at the university as well as those qualities which are
considered to be important for the graduates to contribute to their profession and society. The
centrality of promoting graduate attributes in universities has in most cases been motivated by
such factors as, a belief that a specific set of skills is needed by all graduates, the forces emerging
from market employment needs, and the unsettled debates about the purpose of university
education. As opposed to a traditional perspective in which graduates were being prepared to
master task-specific skills or skills peculiar to their courses of study, there has been a shift of
focus into training graduates who possess a set of generic skills that are applicable to a wide
range of tasks (Barrie, 2006; Pitman & Broomhall, 2009).
However, similar to other social phenomenon, the conceptualisation and the general discourses
of graduate attributes is characterised by many challenges and limitations (Barrie, 2004;
Bridgstock, 2009; Clanchy & Ballard, 1995; Sumsion & Goodfellow, 2004). The majority of the
weaknesses pointed out in the literature however, are concerned with the pervasive vagueness
and inconsistencies in the use of concepts and terminologies (Clanchy & Ballard, 1995).
Shortcomings also include the lack of methodological or conceptual rigour in their formulation
and the lack of attention to the contexts in which the graduate attributes are developed, as well as
the paucity of evidence to suggest that the graduate attributes are transferable across contexts
(Sumsion & Goodfellow, 2004). Barrie (2004) and Barnett (2000), for example, maintain that
even though the graduate attributes are vital in shaping higher education, they generally lack the
conceptual support and theoretical underpinnings. Barrie (2004) argues further that, most of the
graduate attributes are merely compilations of traits perceived by stakeholders as popular, and
they lack critical significant empirical scrutiny on the outcomes they represent.
The concept of lifelong learning
As stated earlier, one of the critical unresolved issues has been the disagreement on the
conception of lifelong learning among scholars. Over the past few decades researchers have long
debated the basis for understanding lifelong learning, and challenges associated with the
conceptualisation of this concept (see Field, 2003; Longworth, 2003). Consequently, there have
been multiple ways from which the concept of lifelong learning has been understood. Being an
all-embracing concept, adaptable to many sectors, lifelong learning and the related concept of
lifelong education are complex to conceptualise. Attempts to delineate the concept include
studies and scholarly papers by notable authors (for example, Aspin & Chapman, 2000; Instance
et al., 2002; Longworth & Davies, 1996; Osborne & Morgan-Klein, 2007; Tuijnman & Boström,
2002). As noted by Doukas (2010), the intricacy in conceptualising lifelong learning is partly due
to the nature of the concept, since it embraces mixed dimensions including educational, social,
economic and cultural. This view is also maintained by Field (2006, p. 2), who regards the
difficulty in conceptualising lifelong learning to originate from its nature as a loose and all-
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encompassing concept focusing on something that we all do sometimes unconsciously.
Longworth & Davies (1996) note that in some countries lifelong learning is confused with
related terms such as continuing education, which implies education for adults. Likewise, Candy
et al. (1994) note that for some people lifelong learning has been erroneously assumed to be
synonymous with non-formal adult education without any relationship to higher education.
Despite the debates about conceptualising lifelong learning, some researchers suggest that one of
the commonest approaches to defining the term has been by classifying it into three broad
categories, namely, formal, non-formal and informal (see Coombs & Ahmed, 1974; La Belle,
1981; Tuijnman & Boström, 2002). Within this perspective, lifelong learning has also been
construed by looking at it from the ‘life-deep’ and ‘life-wide’ perspectives. Whereas the ‘life-
wide’ dimension suggests lifelong learning complementary capacity to offer formal, non-formal
and informal means of learning, the ‘life-deep’ dimension implies the depth of learning and the
lifelong need to focus on complex learning (Maclachlan & Osborne, 2009, p. 575). However, as
Maclachlan & Osborne (2009) observe, in the literature, the use of and concern for the life-deep
dimension has been less common and less emphasised in many of the definitions. According to
Maclachlan & Osborne (2009), many of the current efforts and concerns seem to focus more on
perceiving lifelong learning from the perspective of ‘where’ and ‘when’ learning occurs in our
life (see also, Longworth, 2003). However, one of the drawbacks with this approach of
conceptualising lifelong learning is the danger that some of the core aspects of defining lifelong
learning might be overlooked so much so that the complex phenomenon of lifelong learning
might be defined in a superficial and naive manner.
Further conceptions and characteristic features of lifelong learning have also been proposed by
Leong (2008, p. 543), who, on the basis of Huang (1995), suggested the features of LLL should
include: -
● Openness: that is, available for all;
● Continuity: that is, emphasising linkages between various educational activities;
● Integration: that is, includes all education activities in the life-span;
● Flexibility: in objectives, methodologies, time, place, content and processes;
● Appropriateness: of the content being related to the learner’s life and/or work
A comparatively comprehensive treatment of this concept is given by Cropley (1980, pp. 3-4),
who suggests that for education to lead into lifelong learning it should:
last the whole life of each individual; lead to the systematic acquisition, renewal,
upgrading and completion of knowledge, skills and attitudes; be dependent on its
successful implementation on people’s increasing ability and motivation to engage in
self-directed learning activities; acknowledge the contribution of all available educational
influences, including formal, non-formal and informal (see also, Tight, 1998).
Further recent attempts to conceptualise lifelong learning in a relatively comprehensive manner
have also included works by Longworth & Davies (1996, p. 22), who define lifelong learning as:
-
...the development of human potentials through a continuous supportive process which
stimulates and empowers individuals to acquire all the knowledge, values, skills and
understanding they will require throughout their lifetimes and to apply with confidence,
creativity and enjoyment in all roles, circumstances and environment
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Longworth & Davies (1996) in particular stress the consideration of lifelong learning as a
complete range of human experience, viewing it in a sense of a human potential development
model’, not as an ‘education and training model for the present. The Longworth & Davies
(1996)s definition above seems to be robust since it covers many aspects implied in lifelong
learning and suggests the pervasiveness of the concept. Further complexity of the concept of
lifelong learning however are suggested by other author who argue that the concept of lifelong
learning is also associated with many other different concepts such as self-directed learning,
open and distance learning, learning regions, learning society, and learning communities, which
all signify the imperatives for continued learning resulting from the prerogatives of a fast-
changing world (see Preece, 2011, p. 103). Given the complexity of defining lifelong learning, it
seems important that the concept is explored further to determine what really constitute it, and
identify what are the best ways the educational establishments could identify, prepare and
distinguish students who exhibit lifelong learning.
The attributes of a ‘lifelong learner’
As stated earlier, even though many researchers seem to consider the graduate attributes as more
or less the same as lifelong learning attributes, other studies such as those conducted by
Longworth and Davies (1996) and Knapper and Cropley (2000), depict the lifelong learning
attributes as unique. Longworth and Davies (1996, p. 20), for example, consider LLL attributes
to be distinguishable from other graduate attributes since the lifelong learners’ qualities involve
abilities such as:-
‘information-handling, entrepreneurial skills, self-esteem, decision-making, problem-
solving and self-management; empathy and tolerance of others, creativity, a sense of
humour, flexibility adaptability and versatility, critical judgment, thinking and vision,
planning, practical skills, learning-to-learn, discussing and communicating informally,
presenting and communicating formally.
Longworth and Davies (1996), suggest further that, while other kinds of attributes solely depend
on the schooling process, the school is not solely responsible for the development of LLL
attributes. The lifelong learning attributes instead are developed in conjunction with other
partners in society including parents, professional organisations and interest groups. Knapper and
Cropley (2000, p. 46) maintain that the attributes of lifelong learners are unique because they are
not defined in a psychological manner. For Knapper and Cropley (2000), the LLL attributes
encompass two major components, namely, (1) ‘individuals’ abilities to learn (knowledge,
skills, abilities, and thinking processes); and (2) individual willingness or readiness to learn
(that is, motivation, attitudes, values and self-image, positive attitudes to learning, confidence in
oneself and willingness to question received wisdom), p.46. The analysis of qualities of a
lifelong learner by Knapper & Cropley (2000) seems to be useful since it contradicts the
traditional approach of viewing learning in the context of acquisition of ‘a set of knowledge at
one time followed by a re-application of that knowledge in the future. This view instead
considers a set of abilities that are crucial for LLL. Knapper and Cropley (2000, p. 48) also
consider the qualities of a lifelong learner in the context of both the cognitive and non-cognitive
domains portraying a lifelong learner as someone who: -
is strongly aware of the relationships between learning and real life
is aware of the need for lifelong learning
is highly motivated to pursue lifelong learning
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possesses a self-concept conducive to lifelong learning
has necessary skills for lifelong learning, including: -
o the capacity to set personal objectives in a realistic way
o effectiveness in applying knowledge already possessed
o skills at locating information
o skills in using aids such as libraries or the media
o ability to use and interpret materials from different subject areas.
As Knapper and Cropley (2000, p. 48) further recommend, a comprehensive examination of LLL
requires both an understanding of the concept of learning-to-learn and a consideration of a
school as an important entity in the promotion of lifelong learning skills, because of its ability to
open up numerous possibilities for students to develop personal competencies and pre-requisites
for learning.
In a comparatively disparate way, Candy et al. (1994, p. 43) portray a somewhat different profile
of a lifelong learner as someone who has:-
an inquiring mind: a learner who is propelled by a love and curiosity for learning, a
critical spirit and self-monitoring of his/her own learning.
helicopter vision: an ability to master a particular field and inter-relate different fields of
knowledge together as opposed to compartmentalised learning.
information skills: awareness of how, where, and when to access information, plus the
capacity to critically evaluate the data collected.
a sense of personal agency: a positive image of oneself, self-concept, self-organising
skills and a positive attitude to learning, coupled with the capacity to manage one’s own
learning style.
a range of learning skills focused on deep learning as opposed to surface learning: having
a variety of learning skills at his or her disposal. Deduction of general principle
underlying specific knowledge that can be applied in a different situation (Candy et al.,
1994, p. 43).
According to Candy et al. (1994), this proposed set of lifelong learning attributes provides a
basis for reforming undergraduate education towards promoting effective lifelong learners. Even
if Candy et al. (1994)s study seems to provide a relatively comprehensive and plausible
framework for understanding a lifelong learner, the study is not free from criticisms with regard
to the approach and propositions used. The study, for example, is criticised in terms of the
unclear originality of the analysis associated with identifying the lifelong learners’ profile. It is
also argued that the study seems to overlook the place of informal learning in its analysis (see,
Beckett & Hager, 2002, pp. 109-110). While the critics do not dismiss Candys profile of a
lifelong learner, they suggest the importance of considering the profile of a lifelong learner on
the basis of contextual, social and relational aspects rather than considering it only from the
individual perspective.
An approach adopted in this article
In the present article, an attempt was made to develop a relatively comprehensive set of a profile
of a lifelong learning attributes within the context of higher education in an attempt to quantify
lifelong learning. As it is the case with other exploratory studies, the exercise of mapping the
lifelong learning attributes began with a systematic extensive literature review, using an
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organized systematic approach. From the literature review conducted, it was noted that due to the
complexity and the flexibility of the concept of lifelong learning stated earlier, there seem to be
many possible ways of defining lifelong learners’ personalities and related characteristics, such
that one can end up with a compilation of an extensive list of the qualities associated with
lifelong learners (Hager & Holland, 2006; Illeris, 2009). Thus, the literature review undertaken
in this paper was aimed at searching for common underlying themes and recurring issues
associated with lifelong learning personalities.
The taxonomy of lifelong learning attributes
As stated earlier, central to this article was an attempt to identify the qualities or attributes of a
lifelong learners that could be promoted in higher education institutions, and address the question
of the identification of graduates who could be perceived to be lifelong learners. The major task
in this article therefore, was an attempt to develop a taxonomy of qualities and attributes
characterizing lifelong learners. One common theme which clearly seemed to emerge from the
literature was the observation that some graduate attributes such as ‘information skills’ appeared
to be more repeatedly emphasised in the literature than others (for example, teamwork).
Generally speaking, from the extensive literature review performed, it seems that two major
constructs, namely, (1) the ‘student’s will or personal motives for learning’, and (2) ‘unique
learning strategies’, should constitute lifelong learners personality or attributes. As suggested in
most of the studies, these two stated behaviours seemed to form a basis from which the students
lifelong learning attributes could be appropriately derived (Bath & Smith, 2009; De La Harpe &
Radloff, 2008; Knapper & Cropley, 2000). On the basis of these two broad components, four
related lifelong learning constructs, namely, (1) ‘learning-to-learn’ (2) ‘personal agency (3)
information skills’ and (4) ‘entrepreneurial skills’ could be discerned as clarified further below.
Learning-to-learn
As an essential attribute of a lifelong learner, the construct of learning-to-learn is frequently
associated with a lifelong learning discourse in the literature (see for example, Candy, 1991;
Cornford, 2000; Cornford, 2002; Knapper & Cropley, 2000). Even though the concept of
learning-to-learn is defined differently by different authors (see for example, Bryony & Ulf,
2008; Rawson, 2000), the majority of studies seem to associate learning-to-learn with
metacognitive skills such as self-regulation. Rawson (2000, p. 225), for example, considers
learning-to-learn as a set of skills such as critical analysis, time management, planning and
goal-setting. Rawson further argues that ‘developing learning-to-learn skills in a school setting
requires students involvement in self-reflexive processes constituting a conscious examination
of their learning processes and building awareness of themselves as a learners’. As the EC (2002)
suggests, the promotion of ‘learning-to-learn skills requires school systems to develop structures
that could allow students to have at their disposal a set of meta-skills necessary for them to
successfully construct and shape their own learning. As defined by the European Education
Council (2006), ‘learning-to-learn constitutes: -
…an ability to pursue and persist in learning, to organise one’s own learning, including
thorough effective management of time and information, both individually and in groups.
It includes awareness of ones learning processes and needs, identifying available
opportunities, and the ability to overcome obstacles in order to learn successfully. It also
requires learners to build on prior learning and life experiences in order to use and apply
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knowledge and skills in a variety of contexts: at home, at work, in education and training
(EC, 2006, Annex para 5).
Meanwhile, Bryony & Ulf (2008) consider learning-to-learn in terms of two broad domains,
affectiveand cognitive. In relation to the affective domain, learning-to-learn is regarded as
comprising social skills such as learning relationships, motivation, confidence and learning
strategies (that is, an ability to organise one’s own learning, including a thorough and effective
management of time and information). The cognitive domain on the other hand includes skills
such as the ‘capacity to gain, process and assimilate knowledge’, and an ‘ability to handle
obstacles. The implication from the above proposition, is the importance of focusing on both
cognitive and affective learning processes. The examples of cognitive processes according to
Bryony & Ulf (2008) include elements such as knowledge acquisition, quantitative related
comprehension, logical reasoning, text comprehension and cultural knowledge. Further examples
of affective learning-to-learn skills include sub-systems related to motivational and attitudinal
factors such as learning motivation, school-subject related beliefs and the support of significant
others (Hautamäki et al., 2002). A study by CRELL (2006) indicates that both cognitive and
affective learning-to-learn skills can be taught and instilled as a non-separable part of education
or be embedded in different subject areas taught at school. As a generic skill, learning-to-learn
strategies are not content- or context-based but rather demonstrate trans-disciplinary competence.
Personal agency
As the other attribute of lifelong learners, the concept of personal agency is associated with
lifelong learning capacities, since it signifies notions such as pro-action initiatives, assertiveness
and persistence as predictors of individuals capacity and potential for development (Bandura,
2001; Chen, 2006). The concept suggests a combination of human capacity and the capabilities
necessary for an individuals control over their personal lives. Important qualities for personal
agency also include self-influence, self-awareness and forethought (Zimmerman and Cleary
2006). Chen (2006) considers personal agency as a dynamic, complex and unique human
potential that exists within each person, and varies from one person to another.
Additionally, studies conducted by Ecclestone (2009) and Zimmerman & Cleary (2006) view
human agency as a combination of attributes such as self-efficacy and personal agency. The
individuals agency actions from this perspective constitute mental actions such as ones own
positive image, the capacity to manage a personal learning style, a sense of self-concept, self-
organising and a positive attitude to learning (Billett & Pavolva, 2005, p. 197). As one of the
important foundations of human behaviour, self-efficacy (one’s beliefs concerning one’s
personal ability to engage successfully in a target behaviour) enables individuals to exercise
human agency (Betz & Hackett, 1987). Students with a strong sense of self-efficacy for learning
are therefore also likely to develop other positive skills such as resilience and the ability to resist
negative academic influences from peers with weak self-efficacy (Zimmerman & Cleary, 2006).
Self-efficacy can also be understood within the context of self-regulation skills because of its
proactive impact on the performance and self-evaluation skills involved.
Information skills
There seem to be a consensus in the literature about the relationship between information skills
and one’s potential for the development of LLL capacity (Bundy, 2004; Candy et al., 1994;
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Knapper & Cropley, 2000). In particular, ‘information skills are considered to be essential
because they represent a route through which one can pursue several other lifelong learning goals
(Catts & Lau, 2008). The possession of information skills by students is also considered to be
critical because it characterises students ability to access, evaluate, organize, and use
information resources. In addition to this, ‘information skills are important for learning tasks
such as problem-solving and decision-making, both in formal and informal learning contexts, at
home and in school settings (Bruce, 1997, p. 4). As defined by the Council of Australian
University Librarians (CAUL, 2001, p. 1), information skills constitute a set of abilities that
enables individuals to recognise the moment when information is needed and capacity to locate,
evaluate and use effectively the needed information’. From this perspective, therefore, one can
be considered to be information literate if she/he is able to demonstrate skills such as accessing,
organising, understanding legal and ethical implications in using information, evaluating and
applying information.
As suggested above, as a generic proficiency, ‘information skills’ constitute a set of capabilities
that form important pre-requisites for LLL, and is regarded to be essential for all kinds of
learning environments in all disciplines, and in all levels of education. It is an essential skill
needed for helping learners to engage critically with content and it is also crucial in helping
students to engage in self-directed learning (CAUL, 2001, p. 2). Adequate possession of
information skills is also central for students to assume greater control of learning. The
possession of information skills can also potentially unlock one’s ability to ask informed
questions, which can further sharpen one’s abilities for critical thinking. Catts and Lau (2008)
suggest that as a critical part of their lifelong learning missions, higher learning institutions
should seek to promote a continued growth of information skills in students. As CAUL (2001)
suggests further, the institutional information literacy schemes should not necessarily be created
as extraneous to the curriculum, but interwoven into its content, structure and sequence.
Entrepreneurial skills
The other construct which seem to be frequently associated with lifelong learning in the literature
is the entrepreneurial skills. In studies conducted by Volkamann (2004) and Yorke (2005) the
concept of entrepreneurship is considered to constitute personal characteristics and skills such as
locus of control, innovation and risk-taking. Even though entrepreneurship has a long history in
the literature, the formal entrepreneurial skills offered at university level seem to be of recent
origin. It was not until 1947 in the U.S. and in the 1980’s in the U.K. that the first courses were
established before the concept gained a global university level recognition. There is a widespread
consensus in the literature to suggest a relationship between entrepreneurship and learning (see,
Cope, 2005; Gibb, 1987, 1993; Rae, 2000). In the 1997 Dearing report (Dearing, 1997), the
central role of higher education in preparing students for the world of work was revitalised and
there has been an increased attention to promoting entrepreneurial skills since then. Twofold
levels of integrating entrepreneurial skills in higher education exist, namely, the institutional
level and the programme level. Studies conducted by Gibb (1987, 1993), suggest that
enterprising skills and entrepreneurship education can also take place within or as an adjunct to
the education system. ‘Entrepreneurial skills can also develop from many other sources such as
social learning from others, and formal practical learning (Rae 1999). In this sense,
entrepreneurial orientations may not be entirely the result of undergraduate learning but can also
be the result of experiential learning. Despite this fact, however, studies conducted by Rae
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(1999) and Gibb (1987) maintain that undergraduate education is a critical component in
triggering students towards engaging in an entrepreneurial attitude, and through it entrepreneurs
are likely to grow and develop’. Further relationship between lifelong learning and
entrepreneurial skills is suggested by Moustghfir and Sirca (2010), who assert that
entrepreneurial skills might be acquired and be continuously shaped through LLL processes.
Conclusion and the way forward
The major aim and purpose of this paper were to define operationally the important qualities
essential for perceiving an individual as a lifelong learner within the context of higher education.
As suggested in the literature (for example Maclachlan & Osborne, 2009), the complexity in
mapping LLL is partly due to comprehensiveness of this concept in terms of its depth and width
i.e. learning throughout the different stages of life from “cradle to grave” and across the different
learning contexts including the school, in the community, in work places, at home and daily
normal life (Aspin & Chapman, 2000).. Despite the breadth and width of the concept of lifelong
learning however, viewing the concept of LLL from the perspective of these four concepts seems
to be a useful way of looking at it because it becomes possible to consider it within a more
holistic perspective of essential skills from which an individual can combine a variety of
knowledge, skills, values and attitudes. For example, as stated earlier, the LLL attributes such as
entrepreneurial skills and information skills considered in this paper seem to be important
because they may offer more flexible pathways for individuals to continue learning. Quite a
substantial number of scholars such as Bligh, (1982; Leong, 2008) consider the flexibility as the
cornerstone for successful lifelong learning endeuvers, and encourage the establishment of a
variety of learning pathways and greater fluidity in the transitions between existing systems of
learning by promoting non-formal and informal learning opportunities.
Even though, this paper has highlighted the essential attributes of lifelong learning in the context
of higher education, the set of lifelong learning attributes proposed in this paper should not be
taken to be an ultimate complete set of lifelong learning skills, rather the list should serve as a
catalyst for further debates and dialogue concerned with developing more complete set of skills
necessary for individual to be identified as lifelong learners. Clearly, there are more possibilities
for future studies to engage in the exploration of more potential ways in which more complete set
of lifelong learning attributes can be mapped. Therefore, no attempt is made in this paper to
claim that the taxonomy proposed in this paper is the most compressive way of mapping
individual attributes of LLL. Further studies that might improve the taxonomy of lifelong
learning attributes and contribute in providing a clearer profile of a lifelong learner and help to
understand what really constitute LLL are encouraged. Further studies might be based on the use
of data and compare results from different contexts.
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The university is not only faced with a world of supercomplexity but it has itself contributed to this situation. This is a world in which our very frames of understanding, action and self-identity are all continually challenged. What is the place and role of the university in such a world? It is that of living by the uncertainty principle: it has to generate uncertainty, to help us live with uncertainty and even to revel in our uncertainty.