Social Change and Adult Education? Adult Education for Social Change!

How does receiving a master’s degree from four different European universities at the same time and during the standard period of 2 years sound? How about spending four semesters in different cities and universities in Europe? How would it feel to study at a truly international setting with fellow students from every continent in the world? Would acquiring the skills and knowledge to bring about social change in the world be something you are passionate about?


Seven students from 25 of the 2nd cohort, who thought all the above was just what they were looking for, now give a little insight on their experience with the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s "Adult Education for Social Change".

Why did the students choose "Adult Education for Social Change" or IMAESC as it is known shortly?

Adult education is not always regarded as relevant as general education and continuing education is just recently becoming essential. In various parts of the wold, it’s not something to be bothered with and there is not an endless amount of higher education establishments that cater to these needs. But in a fast changing global world, where the rich get richer and the poor remain that way due to, among others, lack of access to education, adult education is one of the keys to equipping individuals with relevant skills to stand against social and economic inequality. Most students were drawn to the program because of its focus on adults and their journey in education long after finishing school, be it in a university setting, with refugees, with migrants, with senior citizens, with community work, with in-service training, etc. Adult education is a vast area.

There was a lot of practical experience among students before joining the program in various facets of the field, but they noted a lack of theoretical and strategic framework – the bigger picture, as a student from the UK pointed out. She was already a long experienced social change advocate based on hands-on practice and this program was exactly what she needed to combine practice and theory. In addition, important draws were also the highly international setting of the program and a heavy emphasis on internships and practical knowledge in various adult education establishments in the program countries, which, for example, also include UNESCO. But the possibility to become more socially aware on a personal level and deepen and widen their already extensive experience in the field of education, were none the less important factors as a student from Bangladesh and a student from Honduras added. As something practical and fun, it was pointed out by a student from Greece, that apparently the application process was easy and flexible as well, which contributed to her applying.

What have you gained from IMAESC?

A student from Columbia learned what it is like to really learn globally and also learn about herself – who she is as an educator, what are her limits, how adaptable she is, what it is like to hear and accept so many different perspectives from your fellow students from around the world, whose views are incredibly diverse to your own on the exact same topics. The transformation in herself and all the facets about herself that surprised her were one of the benefits for her. 

Breaking global myths was something the student from Honduras pointed out. You have an idea in your head on how some things should be and are in your country, but having the privilege to hear various perspectives from course mates and program staff, challenges you to think differently, to think in broader terms and consider all options, not only from your own views. Expect the unexpected! For her, the program was full of surprises and a holistic experience, including personally, with family, culturally and educationally. She also praised the versatility of the program and wide array of opportunities, and the fact that everyone together can co-create new things – and bring about social change!

South-Korea is a very competitive society and a student from South-Korea was appreciative for the knowledge the program offered on topics that aren’t as widely spoken in her home country, like racism, feminism, adult education, etc. She feels confident that now she can not only survive and flourish in a global world, but also in her own country.

Europe is diverse and there is a lot to appreciate here, which was supported by semesters in Glasgow, Malta and Tallinn, in addition to, staff and vising lecturers from various countries sharing their views and knowledge from their own countries. This was strongly felt by the student from the UK, who gained an appreciation for the European identity. Co-students being from all around the world helped her celebrate her own background and the feeling of belonging. Of course, the program helps students gain friends, experience, surprises and, most importantly, knowledge on how to change the world with adult education. She also mentioned that she is grateful for the opportunity to shape the program, because cooperation with program staff, teachers and students was tight, with student opinion highly valued.

All of them also pointed out that the program is intensive and might be challenging – travelling from one country to the next every semester requires open-mindedness, patience and adaptability – the latter is a key word. The work amount, expectations and tempo of each university is diverse as well. But once you let yourself immerse in the experience, as the student from Bangladesh highlighted, thanks to the program, she is now well equipped to adapt in any professional or cultural situation and has the mind-set and tools to work and manage any sort of context.

What did you learn from your semester in Tallinn, Estonia?

The 3rd semester of the program is spent in Tallinn University. The interesting mix of old and new – a strong culture with traditions and national identity in symbiosis with strong whole-country focus on technology and innovation, fascinated the student from Columbia about Estonia. The student from Bangladesh also agreed with this, bringing out her great internship experience, which focused on digital education. In addition to the fact, it was very interesting to her that in Estonia the education sector is very much in co-operation with start-ups and digital technology developing possibilities. It is not strange that university staff also are actively involved in education enhancing start-ups. It was also fascinating for the student from Greece that socially beneficial developments can be brought about via companies, start-ups, private establishments, businesses, etc. You don’t have to be a non-profit or governmental establishment to want to enable social change – there is no distinction between the two groups in Estonia in this regard. The student from South-Korea mentioned that she had more time to pursues her personal interests as well, for example, join a LIFE project and to try something completely new, which she approached in Estonia – how the country encourages, without barriers, people to pursues something exciting, something different and something innovative.

Regarding the academic side, the student from Honduras found her internship eye-opening and worthwhile, thinking it amazing that Estonia has in only 100 years a solid and functioning adult education training association and system and how this has come about. The student from the UK found that there is already a certain set tradition on how teaching is done in the field of adult education in Estonia and there is a strong emphasis on the expectation of self-directed learning and individual responsibility, which can be challenging for some who require more supervision.

From a cultural side, Estonia was very different form Malta and Glasgow, especially with the latter two being English speaking or widely English using countries and Estonia having its own language. A student from Germany even started to learn Estonian while here. The students did, however, praise the transportation system in the city, but mentioned that flight connection choices were poor with Estonia.

What does the future hold for you?

From grand plans to taking it step by step, the students felt that IMAESC opened so many doors for them and not only physically, but mentally as well. There are plans to combine research with action and to become a social change activist to make an impact. There are plans to return home and open an adult education program in university. There are plans to combine the new field with the already existing one and start advocating policy development for inclusive adult education. So on and so forth, one idea more impressive then the next! The wold is open and ready to accept graduates of IMAESC! 

Application procedure:

Application for scholarships for the "Adult Education for Social Change" program started on the 1st of October 2018 and ended on the 15th of January 2019. At the moment, admission is still open for self-funded students till the 21st of July 2019 (non-EU applicants) and the 25th of August (EU applicants). Admission is organized by University of Glasgow.

Take a moment to explore the program and admission procedure here.