Learning Regions revisited
This 7th Cluster within PURE has not yet been activated, but it is clear that the concepts of Lifelong Learning and of the Learning Region have been part of discussions in some regions. Here an amended extract from the interim report of PURE has been inserted as a reminder of how the learning city/region concept found resonance in some of our regions.
In Northern Illinois, the CDG identified ‘learning regions’ amongst three concepts centred on learning that will be important for the region’s future development. Their take on the Learning Region refers to the notion that regions are becoming the focus of knowledge creation, innovation and utilisation in the global knowledge economy. It was therefore felt by the review team that Northern Illinois understands how it is organised to support the flow of data, information and knowledge. This is particularly important given that no central agency is responsible for regional and economic planning for this portion of the state.
The Learning Region concept is perhaps most strongly expressed in Puglia. The establishment of the Italian Learning Cities Network (http://www.learningcities.it/) from CSEI in Puglia reinforces this commitment, and shows a desire to be an Italian leader in this area. The RVR1 in Puglia, found that there was not always a clear view amongst stakeholders of what the Learning Region might entail, but a year later a much stronger sense of what it means was conveyed. Also the involvement of CSEI in another PASCAL Learning Regions project, Eurolocal, (http://eurolocal.info/) is an indicator that this topic remains high on the agenda.
In South Transdanubia in Hungary, the Faculty of Adult Education and HRD of the University of Pécs, has initiated a discussion amongst the City Council of Pécs, the South Transdanubian Regional Labour Center, the Pécs-Baranya Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Pécs Regional Training Centre to develop adult education and training within the framework of a 'Learning City-Region Forum¹. Other organisations and associations have also joined the initiative, including the County of Baranya, Pécs-Baranya Association for Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge (TIT), the House of Civic Asssociations/House of Educators, the Pécs Cultural Centre (PKK), Baranya County Cultural and Tourism Centre, Pannon Association for Organising Vocational Training, the Multidimensional Association for Development of Pécs and its Surrounding Settlements, the South Transdanubian Regional Innovation Agency and the South Transdanubian Regional Development Agency. The logic here is to bring all stakeholders together in one forum and create synergy by capitalising on networks and linkages.
The Pécs Learning City-Region Forum organisationally has on the one hand acted as a platform for PURE, and on the other has fostered networking in South-Transdanubia, bringing into the project Kaposvár, Szekszárd and their localities, including the other regional University, Kaposvár.
The PURE project has had important impact at a policy level when it comes to lifelong learning in several regions. The Jamtland region has been involved in a European project called Policies for regional cooperation in the field of Lifelong Learning (PRECOLL), which in many ways points in the same direction as the PURE project. Both projects have contributed to raising awareness of the need to coordinate resources within education and learning, seen as key sources to regional development. Since the educational level in Jamtland is below the Swedish average and fewer people from the region tend to go on to higher education than in the rest of Sweden, lifelong learning is an essential starting-point. Within the field of lifelong learning the University and its ability to attract students, is immensely important to the region, to prevent the population from decreasing and to provide the region with skilled labour.
However, in order to increase the educational level a broader perspective is needed. It is important to make truly lifelong learning a priority, to create a culture within the region that learning is valuable and important. In order to make things happen, regional authorities (representatives of the eight municipalities in the region as well as the county administrative board and the county council) have decided that a regional operational programme for lifelong learning is necessary. A formal decision to create such a programme was made in May 2010. The work will start shortly and here collaboration between many different stakeholders is vital.
This is a step towards the human capital plan that the CDG suggested in their review of the region. Since tourism is the most important industry of the region it will probably be visible in the lifelong learning programme. Entrepreneurship is also essential to the regional development, since the business sector is dominated by small enterprises. The idea is that regional needs should be taken into account when creating the programme, as well as all learning opportunities, both formal education and informal learning.
The decision to create a regional operational programme for lifelong learning would not have come about had it not been for the PURE project and the PRECOLL project. These made it quite clear for the region as well as the university that the benefits of collaboration are mutual and necessary for regeneration and development of the region. (More information on the PRECOLL project can be found at: www.mutual-learning.eu). Subsequently a related application to the EC's Intereg IVc programme, entitled RUCOLL, has been made by Jamtland, and involves PASCAL.
PASCAL in addition to the aforementioned Eurolocal project is also involved in the R3L+ project and this forum will also be used to create some discussions around continuing learning city/region issues emerging from those projects as well as ongoing PURE work.