Professor Michael Osborne

  • Professor - Chair of Adult & Lifelong Education (Social Justice Place and Lifelong Education)

telephone: 0141 330 3414

Research interests

Michael Osborne is Professor of Adult and Lifelong Learning at the University of Glasgow and director of the Research and Teaching Group (RTG) in Social Justice, Place and Lifelong Education (SJPLE) within the School of Education. He leads some 30 core and associated academics within SJPLE, including staff from the Academic Development Unit and the Centre for Open Studies with a focus on the effects of education on patterns of social inclusion, the enrichment of social environment, the development of social capital and global justice. This is manifested through a large portfolio of research projects in the adult and lifelong learning area that have been developed with the RTG, and an closely allied portfolio of teaching programmes at under-graduate and post-graduate level in Adult Education, Community Development, Drugs and Alcohol Training and Youth Studies.

He is experienced in adult and continuing education, Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Higher Education research, development and evaluation. He is also Director of the Centre for Research and Development in Adult and Lifelong Learning (CR&DALL) within the College of Social Sciences, and Co-director of the PASCAL Observatory on Place Management, Social Capital and Lifelong Learning within the School of Education. He is co-convenor of the People, Places, Engagement and Change research cluster within the Adam Smith Research Foundation of which he is a Board member. CR&DALL is a constituent part of the Glasgow Centre for International Development, providing its Education component, using in particular its links with Africa in this role. Professor Osborne sits on the university's Africa working group.

He is a Visiting Professor at RMIT Melbourne and is an External Member of the Artistotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.

Research interests

Professor Osborne's  main interests in research and development are: widening participation to higher education, teaching and learning in higher education, the VET/HE interface, community-engaged research, the role of Big Data in Education, and the development of learning cities and regions. He has worked in the field of widening participation for some 30 years, beginning with work developing and evaluating the first Adult Access courses to Higher Education in the former Inner London Education Authority. He has recently published an overview of the last 30 years of access developments in Scotland as a chapter within the book Scottish Education. His most recent work has been directed towards the field of Learning Cities, Lifelong Learning for Work Transition in Mid-life, Big Data, and Teaching and Learning and Innovation in Higher Education.

Research collaborations

He is linked internationally to specialist groups concerned with lifelong learning in Universitas 21, and to organisations such as UNESCO’s Institute for Lifelong Learning, the Institute for International Cooperation of the German Adult Education Association (DVV) and the Asia Europe Meeting Forum for Lifelong Learning (ASEM LLL Hub within which he convenes a research cluster). Through the umbrella of the 'Big Tent' network he has established collaborative links with a number of significant players in the field of community-engaged research in universities. These organisations are the Global Alliance for Community-based Research (GACER), Asia Pacific Community University Engagement Network (APUCEN), Centro Bolivianos de Estudios Multidisciplinarios (CEBEM), Commonwealth University Extension and Engagement Network, Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI), Living Knowledge Network, Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), Service Learning Asia Network (SLAN) and the Talloires Network. Together these organisations have produced five international communiqués on community engagement in HE, which have been disseminated very widely in Higher Education.

The collaboration with GUNI was manifested in April by the UK launch of the 5th edition of Higher Education in the World in Glasgow, hosted by CR&DALL on 22 April 2014.

He has conducted many projects within the European Commission's (EC) LLL programme, including within its Grundtwig and Transveral programmes. In the UK he has worked with government departments and with a number of agencies including the Higher Education Academy and National Association for Adult and Continuing Education. In Scotland he has worked with and for many bodies including Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. Through the Pascal Observatory and CRADALL he works closely with many individuals, universities and regions around the world.

Selected publications

Duke, C., Osborne, M., and Wilson, B. (2013) A New Imperative: Regions and Higher Education in Difficult Times. Series: Universities and lifelong learning. Manchester University Press: Manchester. ISBN 9780719088308

Brennan, J., Edmunds, R., Houston, M., Jary, D., Lebeau, Y., Osborne, M., and Richardson, J. (2010) Improving What Is Learned At University: An Exploration Of The Social And Organisational Diversity Of University Education. Series: Improving learning TLRP. Routledge: London, UK. ISBN 9780415480154

Benneworth, P., and Osborne, M. (2014) Knowledge, engagement and higher education in Europe. In: Escrigas , C., Granados, J., Hall, B.L. and Tandon, R. (eds.) Higher Education in the World 5 Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education: Contributing to Social Change. Series: GUNI Series on the Social Commitment of Universities . Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 204-217. ISBN 9780230535565

Brennan, J., and Osborne, M. (2008) Higher education's many diversities: of students, institutions and experiences; and outcomes? Research Papers in Education, 23(2), pp. 179-190. (doi:10.1080/02671520802048711)



Professor Osborne's most substantial current research commitment is as a co-PI within the recently funded Urban Big Data Centre, a UK Economic and Social Research Council-funded research centre which will help address the social, economic and environmental challenges facing cities. Within this project he will be a undertaking an Urban Research Project on Educational Disadvantage and Place in collaboration with Keith Kintrea, and a further project contributing from Education to a contextual multi-media database based on a household survey of 2000 people in Glasgow.

His current research also includes European Commission funded projects on communities of practice in lifelong learning programmes (DISCUSS) and on labour efficiency in tertiary adult education at universities (LETAE).  

His previously funded research has included: Scottish Higher Education Funding Council/National Health Service (Scotland) funded projects concerned with selection of students in medicine and Veterinary Science (WHAP and WHAN); EC-funded projects in the area of lifelong learning concerned with the development of audit tools for stakeholders within Learning Regions (Indicators project under the Network of Learning Regions (R3L) programme) and projects that develop related learning audits (Lilara), a sustainable network of learning regions/cities (PENR3L), the quality of Grundtwig networks (GINCO), a KA4 project developing a reservoir of best practice in Learning Regions (Eurolocal), a Grundtwig project on Quality in Learning Regions (R3L+), a KA1 project concerned with tertiary lifelong learning in mid-life (THEMP) and a DG EAC funded project on Innovation in Higher Education; a major ESRC TLRP project on the Social and Organisation Mediation of University Learning (SOMUL). He has also been a member of the team managing the EC funded Tempus Project on Lifelong Learning in Palestine. He has also recently completed the co-ordination of a study of universities and regional engagement (PURE) in 19 regions around the world, and is co-convenor of a collaborative group within the Universitas 21 group on Research Universities and their Regions (RUR).

He has also completed research on the decline in adult participation in HE for the Department for Education and Skills in the UK, and co-ordinated a similar project for the Scottish Executive and conducted studies of the effectiveness of widening access policy and practice for the Scottish Executive and for Universities UK, and studies on the Supply and Demand for FE in Scotland, and an international review of short cycle HE.


Professor Osborne supervises the following doctoral students:

  • Abdulkadir Adamu: A Study of the Challenges Facing Open and Distance Education and Stakeholders’ Perceptions on the Quality of ODE Programme in Nigeria
  • Peter Barton: My early attempts at CPR: Reviewing how novice clinical practitioners make sense of their first experiences of undertaking Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
  • Anthony Davis: Economic, Cultural and Economic, Cultural and Social Benefits to host Cities of Commonwealth Games
  • Samir Halliru: Examining the Extent to which Skills Acquisition Training Develops Young Adults Lifelong Learning Attributes in Nigeria 
  • Grace Poulter:  Does constructed learner identity reflect the reality of older adult learners currently engaged in higher degree programmes?
  • Alexandra Konovalchuk: Internationalization of Russian higher education as a factor of improving life quality of young people in the Russian Federation 
  • Chris McAllister: Learning to be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered in Scotland: the power of older adults’ voices for reinterpreting adult and Lifelong Learning theory, research and practice 
  • Michael Sofianos: Entrepreneurial Education – Evaluation of current teaching methods, research on the attributes that motivate individuals to became entrepreneurs and investigation of the connections between these. 
  • Karen Torrance: An exploration of adult literacies' learners experiences of Information and Communication Technologies in their learning


His recent PhD students have been:

  • Gail Goulet: The Transformative Learning of Assessment through Service Learning in HE
  • Keneilwe Molosi: The Impact of the Remote Area Development Programme (RADP) on the Socio-Economic Development of the San: the case of the Gantsi and Maun Areas.
  • Mpoki Mwaikokesya: Undergraduate students’ Development of Lifelong Learning Attributes in Tanzania
  • Douglas Sutherland: The transition of adult students to higher education:  communities, practice and participation


He teaches on the following programmes:

BA in Community Development - Lifelong Learning and Social Change

MSc in Teaching Adults and MSc in Adult and Continuing Education - International Issues in Adult Education,  Curriculum Development in Adult Education. He also convenes the Research dissertation for these programmes.

Additional information

Consulting and advice

He has advised the EC in relation to the development of the new integrated lifelong learning programme, and the German government in the development of higher continuing education.   For the EC he has been a consultant in the following in recent years:

  • Evaluation of the Jean Monnet Programme within the Interim Evaluation of the whole of the Lifelong Learning Programne
  • International evaluation of MOOC models (FutureLearn, OpenHPI and Leuphana) and of international campuses (Nottingham’s Ningbo and Malaysia campuses) as part of an overview of Innovation in HE. 
  • Development of a pan-European framework for the competences of adult educators.

For UNESCO he has been a member of its Expert Group on the development of the International Platform for Learning Cities, which was launched in collaboration with the Chinese Ministry of Education in October 2013 in Beijing. The expert group advised on the Key Features of Learning Cities, which has been developed as an international benchmark. He was a keynote speaker at the event in Beijing

He has carried out a number of consultancies for agencies including the Council of Europe, Universities UK, the Higher Education Academy, and Learndirect Scotland . He has been an adviser and evaluator of programmes at a number of universities around the world, and a keynote speaker at many international events. Recently this has included the following:

  • He was the only invited speaker from the UK at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning’s 60th anniversary celebrations in Hamburg in 2012.
  • During 2012 and 2013 he was an invited speaker at a number of major events in Asia. This has included at the Global HR Forum in Seoul in a session sponsored by the Korean National Institute for Lifelong Learning, the UNESCO International Conference on Learning Cities in Beijing and two preliminary international consultative meetings prior to its launch in Hangzhou (China) and Jeju (Korea), and the Lifelong Learning Planet Forum In Gyeonggi Do (Korea).
  • He was a keynote at the City of Cork Learning Cities Festival in September 2013 alongside Irish Minister, Sean Sherlock.
  • He was a plenary speaker at the Global Universities Network for Innovation, World Congress in Barcelona in June 2013
  • He made a  series of presentations at Consultations on Community Engagement and Social Responsibility in Higher Education in West Bengal, Delhi & Punjab in India at the invitation of the British Council, Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and the UNESCO Chair on Community-based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education in March 2014.
  • He will shortly in April and May 2014 be making a number presentations in Australia as keynote speaker at Learning City events in Frankston, Canberra and Townsville at the invitation of the Australian Learning Communities Network.

He is a reviewer of major grant proposals for the ESRC. At an international level, he is a reviewer for the SSHRC (Canada), including of their Research Centre initiatives and most recently he has been a reviewer of R&D Units for the European Science Foundation.

Academic and professional body membership

He was Secretary of the Universities Association for Continuing Education in Scotland for 4 years. He to serves as the university representative on the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL), its Scottish counterpart (SUALL) and the West of Scotland Wider Access Programme. He is a member of the Executive of the British Association of International and Comparative Education and the Forum for Access and Continuing Education

He serves on the Advisory Group of the Open University in Scotland.

Editorial Board

He is editor of the Journal of Adult and Continuing Education, and has been the editor of a recent issues of the European Journal of Education that focused on widening participation to education and the professional competences of adult education professionals, and of the International Review of Education on the theme of Learning Cities. He is a member of the editorial board of the Canadian Journal of Adult Education.