SVV – Freedom and Responsibility of Liberal (or Popular) Adult Education is a Finnish joint research programme established in 2011 by Tampere University (TAU), University of Eastern Finland (UEF) and Åbo Akademi University (ÅA) and Finnish Adult Education Association (FAEA).

The programme aims to strengthen the research on popular/liberal adult education. A regional network is build around each university. The researchers of the field are invited to join in, but so are also the teachers and administrative people working in educational institutes and associations and people working with the issues of liberal/popular adult education in regional and national government.

Read more about SVV-program – history and future (Article on EPALE-forum)

Sivistystori blog articles

Current activities organized in English

More info and materials in English

SVV networks

SVV collaboration

Dr Kate Smyth, AONTAS Communications Officer – Meeting in June 2022, Read more HERE

SVV framework

Aims and objectives

The tradition of liberal adult education in Nordic countries is long, strong and influential. It is an essential part of the Nordic ethos and building of societal welfare. During the past decades liberal adult education has been in major transition that stems from the international developmental features such as the neo-liberalistic and market-oriented financial policy, the opportunities offered by new technology for even faster innovations and real-time operations and the democracy-gap between supra-national agencies and nation-states. On national level the population in the Nordic countries is aging and migrating from rural to urban areas, the amount of immigrants is growing, municipal service structure is being rationalized and the staffs in liberal adult education institutes are being renewed. Since the 1980s and 90s liberal adult education has tried to cope with diminishing public support and tightening controls, as well as with increasing competition in education markets. At the same time liberal adult education has also tried to maintain its tradition of voluntary studies.

SVV research programme asks how the mission, methods, meanings and agency are being transformed in liberal adult education and what the consequences are to personal, collective and meta-collective adulthood in Finland and in Nordic countries. Furthermore, it aims to analyze relationships between actors in governance, policy, research and liberal adult education. Last but not least it aims to develop collaboration models for sustainable joint research and studies of liberal adult education cross Finland and the Nordic countries.

The Finnish and Nordic research and collaboration on liberal adult education has been fragmentary in nature and often based on individual dissertations. Enhancing and cumulating research and revitalizing the societal value of liberal adult education will require new methods of collaboration. SVV stimulates the collaboration in an innovative yet traditional way. It builds on the Nordic tradition of study circles with their democratic and inclusive principles and aims at joint research that benefits both research and practice of liberal adult education. SVV develops understanding and promotes research-based knowledge and insight into liberal adult education and it’s societal, practical and political function in collaboration between relevant actors. It offers a research-based platform for the scattered national networks to come together and share and shape their visions.

Theoretical and methodological approach

In SVV the distinctiveness of liberal adult education is considered to crystallize in its missions, methods, meanings and agency, which actualize its edificationality, freedom and responsibility. These are related to transforming societal-historical contexts, with focus on implementation of national and transnational policies and their definitions of quality, efficiency and of competency. Crucial examples are changes in municipality structures and financing systems.

Central research questions are

  1. How is edification, freedom and responsibility expressed within the missions, methods and agency of liberal adult education?
  2. How is quality, efficiency and competency expressed in the implementation of the policy programmes and in solutions about municipality structures and financing which are conditioning them?
  3. How is quality, efficiency and competency expressed within the missions, methods, meanings and agency of liberal adult education?
  4. How do interpretations of edification, freedom and responsibility relate to interpretations of quality, efficiency and competency in the missions, methods, meanings and agency of liberal adult education?
  5. What consequences do the above-mentioned have for liberal adult education organizations and for adulthood in its personal, collective and meta-collective meanings?

SVV develops new methodological approaches, which match with liberal adult education as a research target. These may include elements of joint research, where capacities of researchers and practitioners are joined in developing knowledge. The challenge is getting across both the knowledge embedded in local practices, and theoretical knowledge, and recognizing their differences and oppositions (e.g. Vähämäki 2010). On the other hand, approaches remind action research or developmental evaluation where researchers, together with other actors, deconstruct and make visible meanings embedded in documents, programmes, practices and experiences, which are related to the missions, methods and agency in liberal adult education. At the same time they reflect on new, alternative interpretations and their practical consequences. (e.g. Heikkinen & Lamminpää 2002, Kemmis & Wilkinson 1998; Manninen & Kauppi 2008.)

The research process will also be multi-layered, multi-methodical and meta-analytical. Responses to research questions will be investigated by analyzing and synthesizing individual researches which may differ in thematic, methodical and local focus, for example by analyzing documents or web-materials, through surveys and interviews with different actors and by observation and discussions.

Expected outcomes

SVV joins researchers, educators and policymakers to

  • do meta-analysis about existing research on liberal adult education
  • discuss research needs experienced among liberal adult education staff and policymakers
  • draw conclusions for improving practices and policies
  • develop a proposal for research on liberal adult education in Nordic countries
  • publish synthesis reports based on analyses, discussions and conclusions.

Main activities

  • Joint research meetings (twice a year)
  • Thesis collaboration
  • Researching study circles and
  • Publications (e.g. open access pamphlet 2015 edited by Pätäri, Turunen & Sivenius)

Group members

  • Tampere University: professor Anja Heikkinen, PhD students Jenni Pätäri, Sini Teräsahde, Outi Sipilä, Aki Ojakangas, Marja Anitta Pehkonen
  • University of Eastern Finland: professor Jyri Manninen, PhD students Päivi Majoinen, Heidi Luukkainen, Katinka Käyhkö
  • Åbo Akademi: professor Petri Salo
  • FAEA:  chair Björn Wallén

Main funding

  • Ministry of Education and Culture
  • Alfred Kordelin Foundation

Previous activities organized in English




  • 6th Nordic Conference on Adult Education and Learning. Conference theme: Adult Education and the Planetary Condition. 25.-28.3.2015. School of Education, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.
  • ReWell project, coordinated by the University of Tampere (prof. Anja Heikkinen). Promoting regional wellbeing through adult and vocational education: research and study collaboration between universities of Tampere, Mzumbe and Kyambogo and regional adult and vocational institutes. You are welcome to join.
  • Nordic Research Seminar on Non-formal Adult Education, December 2011, Helsinki. A meeting of Nordic reserchers on liberal adult education was organised in Helsinki in the end of the year 2011. It was the first one of its kind for decades. There were participants of the five Nordic countries, and from Russia, Germany, and Austria. Several topics were discussed, and new ideas for further research and co-operation were created. The atmosphere was enthusiastic.


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