Researching inequality and lifelong education from 1982 to 2020: A critical review

Petya Ilieva-Trichkova, Sarah Galloway, Bernhard Schmidt-Hertha, Shibao Guo, Anne Larson, Vicky Duckworth, Tonic Maruatona

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This article explores the International Journal of Lifelong Education archives in the period 1982–2020. We analyse how the Journal engages with the issue of inequality. This is accomplished by systematically identifying relevant articles within the archives, and reviewing these whilst taking account of the societal, cultural and political or economic contexts in which they were written. Most articles identified for review focused on specific disadvantaged groups, discussing ways in which adult education might help, support and strengthen them. A minority took a more critical approach, assessing the drivers for inequality, or problematising the role of lifelong education as a catalyst for addressing inequality or social injustice. In our analysis, we distinguish between inequalities related to class, gender and migration/ethnicity as themes emerging from our initial sweep of the archives, however these themes are represented unequally both in terms of number and attention given across the decades. Perhaps surprisingly, given the different forms of inequality addressed in the Journal, it seems that only very few of these papers can be directly associated with historical events and contexts relevant to the times in which they were written. Theoretically driven conceptualisations of inequality are rarities within the archives, with some notable exceptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Lifelong Education
Early online date24 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Education
  • social and political changes
  • gender
  • migration
  • class
  • Inequality


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