A Case Study of the Edinburgh Lifelong Learning Partnership, an organisation to manage lifelong learning in a Learning City

Tool type(s): 
City/Regional Development
Examples of Good Practice: 
Active Citizenship
Examples of Good Practice: 
Employability and Future Skills
Examples of Good Practice: 
Learning Region Strategies
Examples of Good Practice: 
Innovation and Creativity
Target Sector(s): 
Target Sector(s): 
Local/Regional Authority
Target Sector(s): 
Target Sector(s): 

Edinburgh Lifelong Learning Partnership

Edinburgh City of Learning

Edinburgh's District Council first decided to develop Scotland's capital as a Learning City in 1993 after a member of its Economic Development Section attended the Gothenburg OECD Conference on Educating Cities. He also made contact with the Edinburgh University Centre of Continuing Education. Interest in the idea grew and a group was formed to promote Lifelong Learning in the city.

This group produced a Development Plan for 1994 / 95 and commissioned two consultants to run a consultative exercise involving key players in the city. The aim was to find out:

"How can Edinburgh best create a culture which maximises each person's motivation and opportunities for learning in a city which could be seen to be more democratic, more prosperous and more cohesive?"

As a result of the positive response to this exercise, the District Council and the University of Edinburgh provided funding and the Learning City initiative was launched at a conference in November 1994. The 100 or so delegates - mainly from the world of education and training, but including some employers - were urged to promote lifelong learning within their organisations.

A coordinator was appointed to follow up and develop the action initiated by the conference but in reality little progress was made. In July 1995 'Edinburgh City of Learning" was set up as a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee. This meant it was not owned by any one of the partners, allowing it to act as an "honest broker".

Although working with the many education providers in the city was no easy matter, the Learning City initiative successfully set up a monthly programme of events and published a quarterly newsletter. A 'Shop and Learn" project at an out-of-town centre brought providers together and gave shoppers information about learning opportunities.

A great deal was done to raise funds for specific projects. One, aimed at enlisting the help of Small and Medium Enterprises, was to have culminated in a conference but this was cancelled due to lack of interest.

By now Edinburgh's Regional and District Councils were being replaced by a Unitary Authority. Because of financial constraints, the new authority was unwilling to fund the Learning City and the university was unable to find additional funding. Although the initiative was shelved the new Unitary Authority has built the concept of lifelong learning into its development strategy and Edinburgh's Lifelong Learning Partnership was formally launched on 10th December 1997 with the signing of a Partnership agreement.

The Partners

Edinburgh's Lifelong Learning Partnership was launched formally on 10 December 1997, with all partners signing the Partnership Statement. The partners are the University of Edinburgh, Napier University, Heriot Watt University, Queen Margaret College, Stevenson College, Edinburgh's Telford College, Jewel and Esk Valley College, Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise Ltd, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise, Worker's Educational Association, Career Development Edinburgh and Lothians and the City of Edinburgh Council.


The partnership statement represents the first stage in the development of a strategy and an action plan for Lifelong Learning in the City of Edinburgh.

The Partnership will build on the existing strengths and achievements of education and training provision in Edinburgh. Its purpose is to develop the social, economic, civic and cultural effectiveness of all sections of the community. Partners are committed to strategies that maximise education and training opportunities for all, with the Education Department taking the lead role initially in these developments. The Partnership will have a key role to play in the implementation of recent Government policies which will affect lifelong learning, including New Deal, the University for Industry, the creation of Individual Learning Accounts and the proposals for the National Grid for Learning. In particular, there is a commitment to inclusion that raeans enhancing opportunities for those whose access to learning is often restricted. The Partnership is building a strategic alliance which aspires to:

* provide a coherent framework for the development of lifelong learning strategies
* create a learning culture within the City
* develop collaborative work between sectors and organisations
* improve and increase access to existing learning opportunities in and out of the workplace
* identify and disseminate good practice and thus improve the quality of learning for all
* promote lifelong learning within individual organisations and sectors
* attract new resources for the promotion and development of lifelong learning activities in Edinburgh

Lifelong learning provides an approach to achieving the objectives set out in the Councils City Strategy, the regeneration strategy published in Closing the Gap and the partnership document produced jointly by Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise Limited and the City of Edinburgh Council on Edinburgh's Economic Future.

In particular, the strategic objectives addressed by the Partnership from these documents are:

* reduction of poverty and disadvantage
* enabling people to raise educational achievement
* develop the economy
* development of organisations and their staff

Action Plan

In the short term the Partners are undertaking or planning the following tasks. An action plan will result from further consultation and the expansion of the group of partners

* Regular, targeted information to the public about education and training opportunities in and out of the work place.
* Development of networks to improve quality of information and guidance. * Identification of collaborative arrangements to ensure access for all.
* Identification and development of the role and place of information technology in a learning city.
* Involvement of local people in regeneration initiatives
* improvement of links between Small to Medium Enterprises and education and training providers.
* Strengthening the links between business and the community.
* Participation in European projects to extend knowledge and understanding of lifelong learning policies and practice.
* Strategies to enable the National Education and Training Targets to be achieved.
* Promote community based flexible approaches which overcome barriers experienced by disadvantaged groups.

Since its launch, the Partnership has been progressing to the formation of a Company Limited by Guarantee, with a Board of Directors consisting of the founding partners. Currently the Shadow Board is considering the draft Business Plan for the Company, and has set up a Steering Group to take forward the work of the Company.

The new commitment to establish a lifelong learning partnership was made at a high level, with Chief Executives and Vice Principals becoming directors of a Shadow Board


Partners have made significant financial commitment to support the development of Edinburgh's Lifelong Learning Partnership. Contributions in kind have also supported that development. Additional, external funding will now be sought for specific projects.