learning cities

By Michael Osbourne, University of Glasgow

I write in the week following the 4th UNESCO Learning Cities conference in Medellin, Colombia to which my colleagues and I have made some contributions as evident in this recent posting on the website of the PASCAL Observatory.

However, despite UNESCO’s Learning Cities agenda, which argues for the mobilisation of resources to promote education across all sectors and environments, there is little evaluative research on learning city engagement which is both naturalistic and rigorous (see Lido, Reid and Osborne 2019). We have already explored within the work of the ESRC-funded Urban Big Data Centre at the University of Glasgow, informal learning and lifewide literacies amongst adults in Glasgow in the Interactive Multi-media City Data (iMCD) project. We used three distinct approaches to data collection: a 1600 household survey capturing rich data on learning attitudes, behaviours, and literacies; GPS trails that track mobility around the city; and the capture of naturally occurring social media. The work has begun the operationalisation of learning city indicators, and has explored a number of domains beyond education, some of which have not previously been considered in surveys of adult learning, for example, travel patterns. We now are developing a new strand of work, which may interest readers of this bulletin.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) have a particular interest in the development of local indicators of skills and productivity, and we are looking to explore how we might develop composite indicators of urban learning that operationalize UNESCO’s Learning Cities framework, with potentially widespread application in cities within the UK and beyond. This will involve further interrogation of existing data within the iMCD.

There exists already considerable work on composite indicators, including within the area of lifelong learning, and we will be informed by the work of the work of the EU’s JRC (Joint Research Committee)-COIN (Competence Centre on Composite Indicators and Scoreboards) team, which has developed methodologies in a number of domains. The work in the area of lifelong learning, however, is not fine-grained at city level, and we there may be able to develop measures of greater use in urban settings.

The research questions that we are exploring are as follows:

We will use the existing (iMCD) data, as well as ScotXed pupil data supplied by the Scottish Government as well as data concerning greenspace access and visibility.

If readers are interested in more of what we have done, and indeed in exploring some of the data themselves, more detail is found at the UBDC website. UBDC offers a data service and non-disclosive versions of the iMCD survey and travel datasets are available to researchers, without the requirement to work within a secure environment.

Some of our publications related to our earlier work are shown below:

Image credit: timJ

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