International Conference on Promoting Lifelong Learning in Higher Education: From institutional strategies to practical implementation

Date: 19 to 21 October 2023 Venue: Guoshun Campus, Shanghai Open University

Organizers: Shanghai Open University and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning

Partners: UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office for East Asia (UNESCO Beijing), National Commission of the People’s Republic of China for UNESCO, International Association of Universities, and Chinese Society of Educational Development Strategy


In the context of fast-paced technological developments, the climate crisis, and other local and global sustainable development issues, persistent social inequalities and demographic shifts, there is a need to rethink learning for people of all ages and to transform education systems. With increasingly unpredictable labour markets, reskilling and upskilling throughout life becomes an essential part of people’s professional career. Higher education institutions (HEIs) have a vital role to play in developing the knowledge, competencies and skills that are needed to ensure healthy, prosperous and inclusive sustainable societies.

To best respond to the world’s challenges, HEIs are required to evolve into lifelong learning institutions, reflecting a strong commitment to flexibility and responsiveness to meet the needs of diverse cohorts of learners. To address this diversity, HEIs are called on to reimagine the future of education altogether; this includes offering more flexible learning provision and assessment, cultivating innovative technology-enhanced pedagogies, establishing flexible learning pathways and building partnerships with the private sector and community organizations.

In order to ensure that all people can benefit equally from learning opportunities, higher education needs to become more inclusive and equitable. This requires commitment from governments and HEI leaders. Building strong ties between the higher education sector and schools, technical and vocational education and training institutions, employers and communities is also essential for ensuring lifelong and life-wide learning provision.

To enhance the knowledge base on the above-described developments, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) and Shanghai Open University (SOU) conducted a research project from 2020 to 2022 on the contribution of higher education institutions to lifelong learning. The International Association of Universities (IAU) was tasked with the coordination of a global survey on HEIs’ contribution to lifelong learning.

Within the context of this research project, UIL and SOU, in partnership with the UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office for East Asia (UNESCO Beijing) and IAU (tbc), will host an international, three-day conference to further advance academic and policy discourse on the role of universities in addressing current and future societal challenges. The conference will gather international perspectives on pressing themes, such future skills development, widening access to learning opportunities, technology-enhanced learning, the importance of developing flexible learning pathways, lifelong learning for older adults, community engagement and sustainable development in higher education.

Preliminary agenda

Day 1, Thursday, 19 October 2023
13:30-14:00 CST Opening ceremony
14:00-14:30 Session 1: Keynote speech on the role of universities in light of current and emerging societal challenges.
14:30-14:40 Coffee break
14:40-15:00 Presentation of the main outcomes of recent research into the contribution of HEIs to LLL, and launch of the related international survey report in Chinese.
15:00-16:15 Session 2: Panel discussion on adapting universities to include reskilling and upskilling opportunities to address future skills requirements and target a greater audience.
  • Four presentations
  • Discussion
16:15-16:30 Coffee break
16:30-17:45 Session 3: Plenary session on inclusive and flexible lifelong learning: Promoting recognition of prior learning and micro-credentials in higher education.
  • Four presentations
  • Discussion
17:45-18:00 Group photo
18:00-20:00 Conference dinner
20:00-21:00 Artistic performance

Day 2, Friday, 20 October 2023
9:00-10:00 CST Session 4: Keynote speech on widening access to higher education through AI, MOOCs and other digital learning tools. Discussion Two university presidents or vice-presidents will provide a response to the keynote from a practical perspective.
10:00-11:15 Session 5: Plenary session on addressing the needs of older learners in higher education with a focus on learning modalities, intergenerational approaches and employability.
  • Four presentations
  • Discussion
Presidents’ Forum: Opportunities and challenges for universities in the promotion of lifelong learning (first of two sessions). Dedicated session for university presidents and vice-presidents.
11:15-11:30 Coffee break
11:30-12:45 Session 6: Plenary session on the role of universities in addressing local challenges, engaging communities and promoting learning cities.
  • Four presentations
  • Discussion
Presidents’ Forum: Opportunities and challenges for universities in the promotion of lifelong learning (second of two sessions). Dedicated session for university presidents and vice-presidents.
12:45-14:15 Lunch
14:15-15:15 Session 7: Plenary session on universities’ contribution to sustainable development and climate action, from greening institutions to green-skills development and raising public awareness of green issues.
  • Four presentations
  • Discussion
Roundtable: Strategic development and practice of education for older people in China Organized by Shanghai Lifelong Learning Research Association and Chinese Society of Educational Development Strategy
15:15-15:30 Launch of the Chinese translation of Making Lifelong Learning a Reality A Handbook
15:30-15:45 Coffee break
15:45-16:15 Closing ceremony

Day 3, Saturday, 21 October 2023
9:30-13:30 CST Field visit of lifelong learning sites in Shanghai, followed by lunch


The conference is expected to be attended by 200-250 participants, including policy-makers, university presidents and top-level executives, experts, scholars, researchers and managers in the field of open and distance learning from the People’s Republic of China and around the world. The event will take place in-person in Shanghai, People’s Republic of China.


The working languages of the conference are English and Chinese. Simultaneous translation will be available.

Registration fees

Registration is free for all invited speakers and contributors. For all other attendees, a registration fee will apply. The registration fee includes admission to all conference sessions, a conference package, dinner, coffee breaks and lunch on 19 and 20 October 2023. The registration fee does not include travel costs, accommodation, local transportation and health insurance.


Shanghai Open University

UNESCO UNITWIN Network in Distance and Open Learning at SOU


UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning

Ms Edith Hammer and Ms Mo Wang /

International Conference on
Promoting lifelong learning in higher education:
From institutional strategies to practical implementation

Date: 19 to 21 October 2023


Practical Information

1. Venue

The International Conference will be held at:

Shanghai Open University (SOU)
No. 288 Guoshun Road
Yangpu District

2. Accommodation and Meals

Please Stay tuned as we’ll update the website with more accommodation and booking information!

You are also encouraged to make your own accommodation arrangement.

During the course of the conference, lunches and dinners will be provided by the local organizer.

Conference reception and sign-in information will be updated soon!

3. International Travel

Please check and follow the international air travel COVID-19 policy for entering China (latest information could be found on the website of the Chinese Embassy in your country).

4. Visa

You are kindly advised to contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the People’s Republic of China in order to secure, in a timely manner, the required entry visa prior to departure. Please note that your passport must be valid for a period of at least six months after the date on which you travel to China, and bear in mind that you may need a visa for the countries through which you transit.

5. Health Insurance

You are advised to make your own arrangements for health insurance to cover any medical treatment during your stay in China.

6. Local Transportation

The conference venue is close to Guoquan Road station on metro line 10. You can take metro line 2 at the airport and transfer to line 10 at East Nanjing Road metro station. Or you can take a taxi and show your venue address to the driver.

The venue address in Chinese:

7. Currency

The currency unit of the People’s Republic of China is Renminbi yuan, also known as RMB or yuan.

It is advised that you exchange some RMB cash prior to your arrival in Shanghai. Many banks in Shanghai provide currency exchange service. You can exchange foreign currency for RMB conveniently. It is reasonable for you to keep a few hundred RMB at hand for daily use.

Cards issued by most of the international credit card organizations can be identified by the ATMs in China. Among them, the most widely acceptable ones are VISA and Master Cards. Some others, such as American Express, Diners, Discovery and JCB are also acceptable, but can only be identified by a few ATMs in the city centre. Therefore, we suggest you take a VISA card to China.

One US dollar is equivalent to RMB 7.22 yuan (July 2023 exchange rate). The exchange rate may vary slightly.

8. Banks

Across the street from the campus gate there is a branch office of the Agricultural Bank of China where an automated teller machine (ATM) is available.

There are two branch offices of the Bank of China near SOU campus. One is at 1616 Huangxing Road黄兴路, near RT Mart. The other one is located at 290 Guoding Road国定路, near Zhenghua Road, at 10-minutes’ walking distance from SOU campus. It is encouraged that participants go to Bank of China for foreign currencies business.

9. Climate

The average temperature in Shanghai during October varies between 11°C and 30°C. It is usually sunny, sometimes a little cold and dry. It is better to bring warm clothes with you.

10. Electricity

The standard electricity supply in China is 220V/50HZ. If you need a portable plug adapter, it is better you bring one by yourself or you may contact the front desk of the hotel to borrow one.

standard power socket type in China

suggested Power Adaptor Converter

11. Internet Access

Free Internet access will be available in the hotel and the conference venue.

12. Contact Information

  • For visa support, please send inquiry emails to both email addresses below:

    Ms. GAO Yue (from Shanghai Open University)
    Tel: 86-134 0212 0868

    Ms. HAN Yu (from Shanghai Open University)
    Tel: 86-138 1797 4243