GRUNDTVIG: Adult education and other educational pathways

This action is aimed at enhancing the European dimension of lifelong learning. It supports a wide range of activities designed to promote innovation and the improved availability, accessibility and quality of educational provision for adults, by means of European co-operation.

The Grundtvig action addresses a great variety of educational providers, but the final beneficiaries are adults who, at whatever stage of their lives, wish to learn in order to:

This learning can be accomplished within the framework of formal or non-formal or by means of autonomous learning.

GRUNDTVIG supports the following four types of activities:

Grundtvig 1 - Transnational cooperation projects
Grundtvig 2 - Learning partnerships
Grundtvig 3 - Mobility for training of educational staff
Grundtvig 4 - Networks

A policy of lifelong learning

The Grundtvig action is part of the European Commissionís aim of promoting a policy of lifelong learning, at European level as well as in each of the participating countries.

The action builds on the previous Adult Education action (1995-99) but is larger in scope. It encompasses all levels and sectors of adult learning (general, cultural and social). In addition to learning that takes place within the formal or non-formal system, it also encompasses learning that takes place on a more informal basis, such as autonomous learning.

The Grundtvig action addresses a great variety of subject areas and educational providers. It complements and interacts with other actions within Socrates and with other programmes, such as Leonardo da Vinci, to cover the whole spectrum of lifelong learning. 


The operational aims of the Action may be summarised as follows:

  1. Promoting the development of concrete products and valid results which will be of use in several participating countries (if possible, throughout Europe)
  2. Promoting European co-operation between bodies providing adult education
  3. Contributing to improving the quality of teacher training relating to persons involved in the teaching of adults
  4. Furthering the debate on lifelong learning and contributing to the dissemination of good practice.

Grundtvig 1 - Transnational cooperation projects

A Transnational co-operation project may be defined as a project where institutions/ organisations from different European countries work together, pooling knowledge and experience, in order to achieve concrete and innovative results/products with indisputable European value, such as piloting experiences in strategic areas or high-level teaching products. At the same time, the activities aim to advance the development of a European dimension in the field of adult education.

A number of key areas are considered central for the development of adult learning at European level. Transnational co-operation projects should focus on one or more of these themes.

During the period 1995-1999, 185 projects were financed by the Adult Education action. This includes the 1999 selection, where 78 projects were granted funding. Projects have an average duration of 2 years.

Grundtvig 2 - Learning partnerships

The Grundtvig learning partnership is a framework for small-scale co-operation activities between organisations working in the field of adult learning. 

Compared to the transnational co-operation projects, which are product-oriented, the learning partnerships focus more on process, and aim to broaden the participation of smaller organisations that want to include European co-operation in their education activities.

Grundtvig 3 - Mobility for training of educational staff

Under this action, the Commission provides grants to undertake training courses of which a part, lasting between one and four weeks, takes place in a country other than the one in which the participant normally works.

The objective of the mobility for training is to improve the quality of adult learning provisions by facilitating transnational training experiences for educational staff working with adults. This way people are encouraged to gain a broader understanding of lifelong learning in Europe and to improve their practical teaching/coaching/ counselling skills.

Grundtvig 4 - Networks

The aim of Grundtvig Networks is to strengthen the links between the various actors involved in adult learning, to enable them to co-operate on a more stable basis and to enhance their awareness of the European dimension of education.

Thematic networks - aim to provide a forum for discussion on key issues, policy shaping and/or research in the area of adult learning.

Project networks - aim to provide a basis for continuing contacts between institutions which have participated in projects, and as such contribute to the further dissemination of project results. Other relevant actors can also take part in the network.

Further information

Detailed information on the different activities can be found in the Guidelines for Applicants. The Transnational cooperation projects and networks are centralised activities, which means they are managed by the European Commission. Learning partnerships and mobility for training activities are managed on a decentralised basis by the National Agencies.

Find further information and contacts on the website of the European Commission.


Who was Grundtvig?

Nikoli Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872), a Danish clergyman and writer, is regarded as the ideological father of popular and adult education. He advocated 'life enlightenment', aimed at giving each individual, regardless of age or background, the opportunity to learn throughout life. The objective of learning was twofold, to give personal fulfilment to the individual and to ensure the active participation of all citizens in public life. 

As a learning method, Grundtvig advocated the use of dialogue and the spoken word. He further believed that teaching should be based on and relate to real-life experiences and not abstract matters. These ideas inspired the creation of the Nordic folk high schools. These residential colleges of non-formal adult education are now established components of the Nordic education system and exsist in other countries as well.