School of Education

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John Holford

Robert Peers Chair in Adult Education and Director, Centre for Research in Higher, Adult & Vocational Education, Faculty of Social Sciences



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.

His books include Adult Education Policy and the European Union: Theoretical and Methodological Perspectives (editor, with Milana, Sense Publishers 2014), Lifelong Learning in Europe: National Patterns and Challenges (editor, with Saar & Ure, Edward Elgar 2013), Patterns of Lifelong Learning: Policy & Practice in an Expanding Europe (author, with Riddell, Weedon, Litjens & Hannan; LitVerlag, 2008), The Theory and Practice of Learning (author, with Jarvis & Griffin; 1998, 2nd edition, Routledge 2003), International Perspectives on Lifelong Learning (editor, with Jarvis & Griffin; Kogan Page 1998), Union Education in Britain (author, Nottingham University 1994), Reshaping Labour (author, Routledge 1988). He has also edited many journal special issues, including: Lifelong Learning and Higher Education in Europe 1995-2011: Widening and/or Narrowing Access? (with Riddell & Weedon, 2014), Adult and Lifelong Education: The European Union, its member states and the world (with Milana & Mohorčič Špolar, 2014), Adult and Lifelong Education: Global, National and Local Perspectives Citizenship (with Milana & Mohorčič Špolar, 2014) Citizenship, Learning and Education (with Brooks, 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 joint Convenor of the European Society (ESREA) for Network on Policy Studies in Adult Education (www.esrea.org). He chaired the Universities' Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL) Research Committee (2009-13).

He is an Honorary Professor at the University of Hong Kong (www.hku.hk/), and a Governor of West Notts College, Mansfield (www.wnc.ac.uk/), and a member of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Nepal Studies (UK) (www.cnsuk.org.uk).

Before taking up the Robert Peers Chair of Adult Education in 2007, he was successively Head of Law & Politics, Politics and Educational Studies at the University of Surrey. He also served on the University's Council, Senate, Finance, Research and many 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 more information, and some publications, see http://nottingham.academia.edu/JohnHolford/about. 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:

  • Leading Nottingham team for EU FP7 project, LLLight'in'Europe (2012-15)
  • 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"

John is a member of the Centre for International Education Research. His research supervision areas include:

  • adult and lifelong education
  • higher education
  • educational policy
  • the European Union
  • South East Asia
  • historical, sociological, policy and political perspectives on lifelong learning and education
  • education, citizenship and governance
  • education, social inclusion and social cohesion
  • community engagement and widening participation
  • governance, leadership and management in lifelong education
  • workers and labour education
  • community education
  • learning and social movements

Research proposals: please email John if you would like to discuss the appropriateness of your research topic.

See also: School of Education research supervision areas.

Past Research

Towards a Lifelong Learning Society in Europe: The Contribution of the Education System (LLL2010) (European Union 6th Framework Integrated Project; Co-ordinator of Nottingham team)

Strategies for inclusion and Social Cohesion in Europe throughEducation (Includ-Ed) (European Union 6th Framework Integrated Project: Co-ordinator of Nottingham team)

New Spaces of Education (ESRC Seminar Series, Joint co-ordinator)

Learning citizenship in Europe. Led EU 5th Framework project Education & Training for Governance & Active Citizenship in Europe (ETGACE); member of EU Joint Research Centre network on indicators of active citizenship for democracy.

Adult learning and the development of citizenship in the British colonies

Adult learning in trade unions and social movements chiefly in Britain but also South East Asia.

British labour politics and workers' education, especially in the twentieth century.

Hong Kong's adult continuing education: policy, quality, internationalisation

School of Education

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