Bristol becomes the first place in England to join with Learning Cities across the world

Bristol is the first city in England to become part of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities, affirming the city’s strong commitment to lifelong learning.

Bristol joins a large network of cities from around the world who work together to share ideas and solutions. Across the UK so far only Swansea has also committed to UNESCO’s global initiative on the development of Learning Cities.

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, said:

“It’s brilliant news that our partnership commitment to learning is now official following a meeting I had in Bristol with Arne Carlsen, Director of UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, a couple of weeks ago.

“We are working together in a new and unique way to promote, plan and celebrate learning, in all its forms, across Bristol. It’s potentially extremely powerful in terms of social mobility and vitality.

“To support our work with partners, and in consultation with them, I have declared 2016 as our Year of Learning and I’m impatient to realise the benefits this can bring for Bristol. I firmly believe that learning will help break down social barriers, change lives and make Bristol more prosperous and a fairer place to live.”

Steve West, Vice Chancellor of University West of England (UWE), said:

“The power of education to transform lives and create opportunity is evident across the globe. Every child and young person deserves an outstanding education experience that not only supports them to acquire new knowledge and skills but also enriches their lives and equips them as global citizens.

“Bristol as England’s first Learning City recognises that learning is a life long journey. A journey that should be shared, celebrated and developed. A journey for everyone wherever they might be on their own unique personal adventure. I’m proud and delighted that I and UWE Bristol are working to support Bristol in this venture.”

A Learning City is defined as a place which uses its resources to promote inclusive, lifelong learning in education, families, communities and the workplace.

Learning Cities aim to create social cohesion, economic and cultural prosperity and sustainable development. Empowering individuals is central to the approach, both in Bristol and worldwide. Every Learning City is different and develops its own strategy, although evidence from other cites suggests strong governance is a defining feature of successful Learning Cities.

In Bristol a group of influential city leaders representing education, business and advocates for learning, have come together to form a Learning City Partnership Board. These leaders oversee the delivery of partnership activity aimed at tackling identified priorities across Bristol. As ambassadors, the Board champion learning for all ages and all communities, commission activity to increase participation and achievement, communicate messages about learning and celebrate the benefits of learning as a way to transform lives.

To ensure a true partnership approach Bristol City Council changed its constitution to enable the Mayor to make key decisions about council business at the Learning City Partnership Board.

Arne Carlsen, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, said:

“Declaring 2016 Bristol’s Year of Learning truly symbolizes strong commitment to the Learning City concept. Bristol’s approach can provide good insights and inspirations for cities around the world. We are delighted to welcome Bristol to the Global Network of Learning Cities and are looking forward to the further developments that are to come with this initiative.”

Throughout the year the Learning City Partnership ‘Love Learning’ campaign will be taking place in Bristol, to encourage citizens to take part in learning and inspire everyone to get involved.

The Love Learning campaign was launched on 8 February with a week of learning activities and messages about learning on social media. Over 40 Learning Ambassadors have been nominated and the public is being encouraged to share stories about how learning has changed their life. Learning stories can be submitted via the Learning City website and will be showcased across a range of on and offline media, including social media sites and travelling exhibitions.

For more information about Bristol Learning City and the Love Learning campaign, visit: or