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Vocationalism varies (a lot): a 12-country multivariate analysis of participation in formal adult learning

Boeren, Ellen; Holford, John


Ellen Boeren

Robert Peers Chair in Adult Education


To encourage adult participation in education and training, contemporary policy makers typically encourage education and training provision to have a strongly vocational (employment-related) character, while also stressing individuals’ responsibility for developing their own learning. Adults’ motivation to learn is not, however, purely vocational—it varies substantially, not only between individuals but between populations. This article uses regression analysis to explain motivation among 12,000 learners in formal education and training in 12 European countries. Although vocational motivation is influenced by individual-level characteristics (such as age, gender, education, occupation), it turns out that the country in which the participation takes place is a far stronger explanatory variable. For example, although men’s vocational motivation to participate is higher than women’s in all countries, Eastern European women have significantly higher levels of vocational motivation than men in Western Europe. This supports other research which suggests that, despite globalization, national institutional structures (social, economic) have continuing policy significance.


Boeren, E., & Holford, J. (2016). Vocationalism varies (a lot): a 12-country multivariate analysis of participation in formal adult learning. Adult Education Quarterly, 66(2), doi:10.1177/0741713615624207

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 1, 2015
Online Publication Date Jan 31, 2016
Publication Date May 1, 2016
Deposit Date Mar 12, 2018
Journal Adult Education Quarterly
Print ISSN 0741-7136
Electronic ISSN 1552-3047
Publisher SAGE Publications (UK and US)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 66
Issue 2
Keywords Motivation; Comparative research; Europe; Vocationalism; Quantitative research
Public URL
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:
Additional Information © 2018 by American Association for Adult and Continuing Education