ESREA’s mission is to support the advancement of high quality research on the education and learning of adults in Europe by sustaining:

  • co-operation among researchers, in the European context conceived in the broadest geographical terms;
  • development of research and dissemination of results in all areas of adult and continuing education;
  • training of early researchers and continuing professional development of researchers;
  • relationships with other European organizations and the appropriate national organizations.


The history of ESREA begins in December 1991, with a draft proposal circulated among researchers of different disciplines, in conferences and seminars, aimed to create a forum for research on adult education.
The first Steering Committee, convened by Barry Hake and chaired by Kjell Rubenson, agreed to established a democratically governed society, with individual and institutional membership, and triennial elections of the SC. Its core activities would be research networks, a triennial conference, publications, support for PhD students, and a newsletter.
Research networks, a key priority ever, sustain active co-operation among researchers through regular seminars, joint publications, and training of early researchers. They are the lifeblood of ESREA.

From 1998 to 2012 the SC, chaired by Henning Salling Olesen, acted to extend ESREA’s scope, to foster publications and participation, especially from Southern and Eastern Europe.
In 2007 the secretariat was brought to Linköping, with Andreas Fejes as secretary. Among the many actions taken, the publication since 2010 of The European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults [RELA] has celebrated richness and diversity of research, not least by open access and inclusive linguistic policies.

ESREA has been flourishing since its foundation.
From 1995 to 2016, Triennial Conferences have celebrated the evolution of its intellectual agenda, from themes of social participation and discussions on the controversial role of education in the ‘learning society’, to the challenges of transition and diversity, and more recently the constraints and resources for the future of adult education.

Research project

(His)story of the European Society of Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA): A narrative history of intellectual evolution and transformation in the field of adult education in Europe

by Katherine Nicoll and Gert Biesta

Language policy of ESREA

ESREA’s working language is English.

However, we are committed to include those who are not confident in expressing themselves in English, for example in the following ways:

  • accepting papers written or presented in other languages at ESREA seminars and conferences;
  • including bi-lingual workshops where possible;
  • strongly encouraging native English speakers to be sensitive to the needs of those for whom English is not a first language.