The EU's lifelong learning policy has emerged as an overarching educational reform policy intended to address a wide range of issues, including education, employment and competitiveness. The question has been raised as to whether the resulting policy is merely a catch-all concept that can be applied to any needs or whether it is underpinned by a comprehensive concept and strategy. This article advances the notion of institutional learning as the selective adoption by organisations of characteristics or policies from other organisations, as opposed to the wholesale homogenisation suggested by institutional isomorphism. Based on our periodisation of international lifelong learning policy, this article argues that a complete historical analysis of the discourse on lifelong learning, coupled with an analysis of the European Commission's institutional learning from others will give a more appropriate picture of what contributed to the current conceptualisation of lifelong learning.
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