University of East Anglia to establish the first UNESCO Chair in adult literacy and learning for social transformation

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The University of East Anglia will be invited by UNESCO to join its prestigious universities network and establish the first UNESCO Chair in adult literacy and learning for social transformation.

Through the accolade – that has been awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) with the full support of the UK National Commission for UNESCO – the University of East Anglia will develop understanding about how adult learning – particularly for women and young people – can help address inequalities in the poorest communities of the world.

The University of East Anglia’s Professor of Education, Anna Robinson-Pant, will be appointed as the UNESCO Chairholder. The Chair programme will build directly on the expertise of the UEA Literacy and Development Group, which brings together researchers in education and international development from across the university.

Professor Robinson-Pant previously won the UNESCO Award for International Literacy Research for her ethnographic study on women’s literacy and development in Nepal. Her research interest emerged from her professional experiences as trainer, evaluator and planner with NGO and Government programmes in the field of adult literacy, gender and development. She has since contributed to raising the profile of participatory and ethnographic research approaches in the international development policy arena, through publications and projects – including her recent role as Global Research Coordinator on an IFAD-UNESCO study, ‘Learning knowledge and skills for agriculture and rural livelihoods’.

UEA’s UNESCO Chair will look to strengthen qualitative research capacity in the field of adult literacy, learning and social transformation by working closely within partner institutions in Ethiopia (Bahir Dar University), Nepal (Kathmandu University and Tribhuvan University Research Center for Educational Innovation and Development) and Egypt (Ain Shams University). The Chair will promote a holistic approach to adult learning as the basis for active citizenship and improved livelihoods. In so doing, the UNESCO Chair will connect closely to UNESCO’s work in providing the frameworks, standards and international agreements to promote gender equality and high quality and inclusive lifelong learning for all.

Professor Robinson-Pant said:

“ I am so pleased to hear that I have been awarded a UNESCO Chair. I am convinced that adult education can become a force for change in the poorest communities of the world and this is a real opportunity to work closely with colleagues in Ethiopia, Egypt and Nepal who share that view. Our programme of collaborative research and training should also contribute to the 2030 sustainable development agenda, highlighting the central role of adult learning and literacy in areas like health and agricultural development”.

The UK National Commission for UNESCO, which acts as a hub between UNESCO, UK government and UK Civil Society, supported Professor Robinson-Pant through the rigorous application process. The UK National Commission for UNESCO’s Higher Education Director, Professor Kiran Fernandes, said of the announcement:

“Professor Robinson-Pant’s work connects closely to UNESCO’s global mandate for promoting gender equality and quality, lifelong learning for all.

Under Professor Robinson-Pant’s leadership, the University of East Anglia, which already is part of the UK’s UNESCO City of Literature, will be joining a dynamic, global network of UNESCO Chairs; eminent research institutions that, within their different fields and academic focus, are all working to further UNESCO’s goal to build peace and sustainable development.

Our hope is that by collaborating with UNESCO’s universities network, and working under the powerful UNESCO brand, that Professor Robinson-Pant’s critical work in adult literacy and learning for social transformation will be enhanced and strengthened”.

The University of East Anglia is within Norwich UNESCO City of Literature, an accolade granted to cities around the world with an outstanding literary heritage and a vibrant contemporary writing, reading, translation and publishing scene.

Professor David Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of University of East Anglia, said:

“I am delighted that UEA is establishing a UNESCO Chair and I am convinced that the programme will consolidate and take forward innovative research and teaching in this important area, through widening and deepening our international partnerships with universities in the South. I also welcome the establishment of the Chair as a potential contribution to our internationalisation strategy in terms of enhancing global understanding in the University and our local community”.