The University of East Anglia was invited by UNESCO to join its prestigious universities network and established the first UNESCO Chair in adult literacy and learning for social transformation in May 2016.

After a successful first phase, the Chair (based in the UEA School of Education and Lifelong Learning) has been renewed until April 2024.

This UNESCO Chair programme aims to develop understanding about how adult learning – particularly for women and young adults - can help address inequalities in the poorest communities of the world. Through investigating how or why adult literacy might facilitate or respond to processes of social transformation, including women’s empowerment, the Chair programme sets out to strengthen the interaction between formal, non-formal and informal learning in research, policy and programmes. The programme builds directly on the expertise of the UEA Literacy and Development Group, which brings together researchers in education and international development from across the University of East Anglia (LDG Group). Professor  Anna Robinson-Pant is the UNESCO Chairholder, leading a faculty team consisting of: Dr. Sheila Aikman, Dr. Catherine Jere, Professor Yann Lebeau, Dr. Esther Priyadharshini, Professor Nitya Rao, Professor Alan Rogers.

This UNESCO Chair programme is a partnership with university departments specialising in adult literacy and community learning in Ethiopia (Bahir Dar University), Nepal (Kathmandu University and Tribhuvan University Research Center for Educational Innovation and Development), Malawi  (University of Malawi School of Education and the Centre of Language Studies), Egypt (Ain Shams University) and the Philippines (University of Santo Tomas). We are working together to strengthen qualitative research capacity in the field of adult literacy, learning and social transformation through collaborative research and curriculum development activities. The UNESCO Chair is also developing new initiatives with key policy organisations in this field, including the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning in Hamburg. Supporting a rights-based holistic approach to adult learning as the basis for active citizenship and improved livelihoods, we aim to promote greater interaction between research and policy in areas such as vocational skill development, health, agriculture and adult literacy learning.

Some highlights

Research on ‘Family literacy, indigenous learning and sustainable development’ in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nepal and the Philippines

Special issue of Studies in the Education of Adults on ‘Indigenous Women and Adult Learning’

UNESCO Chair Literacy conferences in Egypt (2017), Nepal (October 2018), Ethiopia (May 2019) and the Philippines (November 2019 )

#All4SocialChange webinar series (ongoing since December 2018)

Participatory research methods and/or academic writing workshops in all partner institutions

Intercultural learning and gender relations among migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking populations: a participatory action research project’ with New Routes Integration in Norwich, UK (2018-19)


International webinar on family literacy and indigenous and local learning - 9 December 2021

On 9 December, the UEA UNESCO Chair will be co-hosting an international webinar with UNESCO’s Section of Youth, Literacy and Skills Development, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and the...

Newsletter - May 2021

UEA UNESCO Chair in Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation Read the May 2021 newsletter

Decolonising Literacy blog series launched: a follow-up blog

Last November, the UNESCO Chair team co-hosted a conference with BALID (British Association for Literacy in Development) to explore the theme of ‘decolonising literacy’ through Brian Street’s...

UNESCO Chair Nepal welcomes international team!

In October, UNESCO Chair colleagues in Nepal welcomed a team from UEA, Bahir Dar University Ethiopia and the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines: Anna Robinson-Pant, Sheila Aikman, PhD...

University Of Sanctuary anniversary celebrations

Last Wednesday, the UEA UNESCO Chair team contributed to the University of Sanctuary anniversary celebrations. PGR students Burcu Evren and Chris Millora spoke to visitors (including Norwich Mayor...

UEA represented at Adult Education 100 'Next Steps' Conference held at City Lit November 26 2018

Adult Education 100 is a national initiative to re-examine the place of Adult Education (AE) in the UK, marking the Centenary of the Ministry of Reconstruction Report on Adult Education...

Brian Street memorial lecture published

Last year’s memorial lecture given by David Barton and Mary Hamilton has now been published as the first paper in a new series of UEA School of Education and Lifelong Learning Occasional Research...

UNESCO Chair visit to UIL Hamburg

Anna Robinson-Pant visited UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning in Hamburg from Feb. 21st – 22nd 2019, hosted by UIL Director David Atchoarena, Rakhat Zholdoshalieva and Rika Yorozu (Policy...

Webinar - Family literacy and indigenous learning: perspectives from Malawi, Nepal, Ethiopia and the Philippines (October 2021)

Family literacy programmes in the Global South have tended to be modelled on US/UK approaches, underpinned by assumptions about nuclear families and promoting Western...

UEA 100 Forum - December 11 2018 report

Read the report from the first Adult Education 100 Forum , held December 2018.