Is There a Place for Popular Adult Education in the Managerial University?

A Finnish Case




Finland, managerial university, popular adult education, radical adult education, Tampere university


This article studies the possibilities of reclaiming and revitalising popular adult education in Finland’s neoliberally driven managerial university and addresses the place for popular adult education in it. In Finland, popular adult education has been taught at a university level since the 1920s. Currently, it has a marginal position in academia. This descriptive case study ponders the role of teaching popular adult education in Finnish universities and describes the pilot program on popular adult education organised at Tampere University in 2020. The study suggests that popular adult education, even in managerial universities, can provide students and practitioners with meaningful knowledge and the means to build global humanity and a sustainable future. In conclusion, the article discusses the future of popular adult education and its role in the university.


Metrics Loading ...


Aedo, M. Paz, Peredo, S., & Schaeffer, C. (2019). From an essential being to an actor’s becoming: political ecology transformational learning experiences in adult education. Environmental Education Research, 25(1), 33–45.

Alvesson, M. (2009). At-Home Ethnography: Struggling with closeness and pp. closure. In S. Ybema, D. Yanow, H. Wels & F. Kamsteeg (Eds.), Organizational Ethnography: Studying the Complexities of Everyday Life (pp. 156–174). Sage.

Anderson, G. (2008). Mapping Academic Resistance in the Managerial University. Organization, 15(2), 251–270.

Bengtsson, S., & Van Poeck, K. (2021). What can we learn from COVID-19 as a form of public pedagogy? European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 12(3), 281–293.

Borg, C. & Mayo, P. (2007). Public Intellectuals, Radical Democracy, and Social Movements. Peter Lang.

Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S. (1996). Postscript: an agenda for research and policy. In A. Tuijnman (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Adult Education and Training (2nd ed.., pp. 889-895). Pergamon.

Brookfield, S. (2016). The future of social justice in adult education. Dialogues in Social Justice, 1(1), 27–30.

Brookfield, S. & Holst, J. (2011). Radicalizing Learning. Adult education for a just world. Jossey-Bass.

Crowther, J. (2013). The international popular education network: its purpose and contribution. Rhizome Freirean, 14.

Crowther, J., Galloway, V., & Martin, I. (2005). Introduction: Radicalising intellectual work. In J. Crowther, V. Galloway & I. Martin (Eds.), Popular Education: Engaging the Academy (pp. 1–7). NIACE.

Crowther, J., Johnston, R., Martin, I. & Merrill, B. (2006). Defending the radical margins of university adult education. In A. Antikainen, P. Harinen & A. Torres (Eds.), In from the Margins (pp. 53–64). Sense Publishers.

EAEA. (2011). Country report Finland (Helsinki).

Edquist, S. (2015). Demarcating popular education with government subsidies: Sweden 1911–1991. Nordic Journal of Educational History, 2(1), 73–96.

Ellis, C., Adams, T. E., & Bochner, A. P. (2010). Autoethnography: An Overview. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1).

Ferrer, A. (2011). The Concept of popular education revisited – or what do we talk about when we speak of popular education. Paedagogica Historica, 47(1–2), 15–31.

Filander, K. (2012). Discursive turns from ’Bildung’ to managerialism: Memory-work of the Finnish adult education generations. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 3(2), 135–153.

Fleming, P. (2021). Dark Academia. How universities die. Pluto Press.

Flowers, R. (2009). Traditions of Popular Education. REPORT – Zeitschrift fu?r Weiterbildungsforschung, 32(2), 9–22.

Foley, G. (1999). Learning in Social Action. Zed Books.

Freire, P. (2005). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Continuum.

Gajardo, M. (2019). Finding Paulo Freire in Chile. In C. Torres (Ed.), The Wiley Handbook of Paulo Freire (pp. 99–119). Wiley-Blackwell.

Gustavsson, B. (2005). Folkbildningens villkor i den senmoderna epoken [The conditions of folkbildning in the late modern era]. In A-M. Laginder & I. Landström (Eds.), Folkbildning –samtidig eller tidlös [Popular education – current or timeless] (pp. 297–309). Linköpings universitet.

Habermas, J. (1991). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. The MIT Press.

Hakoniemi, E. (2018) Sivistys yhteiskunnallisena voimana ? työväen sivistystyön sivistys-käsite [Bildung as social and political force – the concept of bildung in the workers’ education]. Koulu ja menneisyys, 56, 155–179.

Hakoniemi, E. (2021). The Labor Movement as an Educational Movement: A Conceptual History of Sivistys Within the Finnish Workers’ Educational Association 1920s–1960s. International Labor and Working-Class History, 99, 75-95.

Hall, B. (2009). To Change the World: adult learning and social movements. In Jarvis, P. (Ed.), The Routledge International Handbook of Lifelong Learning (pp. 347–357). Routledge.

Hall, R. (2021). The Hopeless University. Intellectual Work at the End of the End of History. Mayfly Books.

Harju, A., & Heikkinen, A. (2016). Adult Education and the Planetary Condition. Finnish Adult Education Association.

Harju, A., Pätäri, J., Saviniemi, S. & Teräsahde, S. (2019). Vapaan sivistystyön oppilaitosmuodot ja ohjaus. In J. Pätäri, S. Teräsahde, A. Harju, J. Manninen & A. Heikkinen (Eds.), Vapaa sivistystyö (pp. 31–84). Vapaa sivistystyö ry.

Harva, U., Hautamäki, A., Veilahti, V. O., Valavaara, O., Oittinen, R. H., Liukkonen, V., Anttila, P., Parkkari, N., & Kallinen, Y. (1954). Työväen omaehtoinen sivistystyö [Workers’ Self-Governed Popular Education]. Tammi.

Heaney, T. W., & Horton, A. I. (1990). Reflective Engagement for Social Change. In J. Mezirow (Ed.), Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood: A guide to transformative and emancipatory learning (pp. 74–98). Jossey-Bass.

Heikkinen, A., Pätäri, J., & Teräsahde, S. (2019). Disciplinary struggles in and between adult, vocational, and general education in the Academy. Lessons from Finland. In A. Heikkinen, J. Pätäri & G. Molzberger (Eds.), Disciplinary Struggles in Education. Tampere University Press.

Holst, J. (2002). Social Movements, Civil Society, and Radical Adult Education. Bergin & Garvey.

Holst, J. (2011). Frameworks for understanding the politics of social movements. Studies in the Education of Adults, 43(2), 117–127.

Holst, J. (2018). From Radical Adult Education to Social Movement Learning. In M. Milana, S. Webb, J. Holford, R. Waller, & P. Jarvis (Eds.), The Palgrave International Handbook on Adult and Lifelong Education and Learning (pp. 75–92). Palgrave.

Jesson, J. & Newman, M. (2004). Radical Adult Education and Learning. In G. Foley (Ed.), Dimensions of Adult Training (pp. 251–264). Open University Press.

Jessop, B. (2018). On Academic Capitalism. Critical Policy Studies, 12(1), 104–109.

Jokinen, J. (2017). Tampereen koulukunnan synty ja hajoaminen [The birth and disintegration of the Tampere school]. Vapaa sivistystyö ry.

Jokinen, J. (2018). Tampereen aikuiskasvatuksen koulukunnan loistava menneisyys [The great past of Tampere School of Adult Education]. Aikuiskasvatus, 38(4), 326–332.

Kantasalmi, K., & Hake, B. J. (1997). Popular adult education in Finland 1890?1939: a critical reinterpretation of the ‘people's enlightenment project. History of Education, 26(4), 353–374.

Kerka, S. (1997). Popular Education: Adult Education for Social Change. ERIC Digest No. 185.

Kincheloe, J. (2012). Teachers as Researchers. Routledge.

Korsgaard, O. (2002). A European Demos? The Nordic adult education tradition – folkeoplysning –faces a challenge. Comparative Education, 38(1), 7–16.

Koski, L. (2011). Sivistystyön ihmiskäsitys: villi-ihmisestä aikuiseksi yksilöksi. In A. Heikkinen & P. Leino-Kaukiainen (Eds.), Valistus ja koulunpenkki. Kasvatus ja koulutus Suomessa 1860-luvulta 1960-luvulle [Education and school. Education and training in Finland from the 1860s to the 1960s] (pp. 159–183). SKS.

Kuk, H.-S. & Tarlau, R. (2020). The confluence of popular education and social movement studies into social movement learning: A systematic literature review. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 39(5-6), 591–604.

Kuusela, H. (2021). Autonomiasta elittiverkostoihin, kolmikannasta hierarkioihin: suomalaisyliopistojen hallitusten jäsenet vuosina 2010–2020 [From autonomy to elite networks: external board memebers in Finnish universities during the years 2010–2020]. Sosiologia, 58(4), 319–337.

Kuusela, H., Harju, A., Kaleva, V., Poutanen, M., Raipola, J., Tervasmäki, T., & Tomperi, T. (2019). Kenen yliopisto? Tampereen yliopiston henkilöstön näkemyksiä yliopistojen johtamisjärjestelmistä ja itsehallinnosta [Whose university is it? Academic staff’s views of Tampere University management systems and self-government]. Tampere University, Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences.

Larsson, S. (2010). Invisible colleges in the adult education research world. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 1(1-2), 97–112.

Lea, D. (2011). The Managerial University and the Decline of Modern Thought. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 43(8), 816–837.

Lindqvist, S. (1978). Gräv där du står. Hur man utforskar ett jobb. Bonnier.

Lindqvist, S. (1979). Dig Where You Stand. Oral History, 7(2), 24–30.

Lindqvist, S. (2014). Dig Where You Stand Movement. In D. Coghlan & M. Brydon-Miller (Eds.), The Sage Encyclopedia of Action Research (pp. 265–266). Sage.

Malewski, M. (2010). On the incommensurability of adult education researchers’ worlds. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 1(1–2), 53–66.

Manninen, J. (2017). Empirical and genealogical analysis of non-vocational adult education in Europe. International Review of Education, 63, 319–340.

Marx, K. (1894). Capital. A Critique of Political Economy, vol 3. International Publishers.

Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1998). The German Ideology. Prometheus Books.

Mc Cormack, D., O’Neill, J., Ryan, M., & Walsh, T. (2020). Autoethnography in, and as, Adult Education. In B. Grummell & F. Finnegan (Eds.), Doing Critical and Creative Research in Adult Education. Case Studies in Methodology and Theory (pp. 73–85). Brill.

Mojab, S. (2011). Adult Education in/and Imperialism. In S. Carpenter & S. Mojab (Eds.), Educating from Marx. Race, Gender, and Learning (pp. 167–190). Palgrave Macmillan.

Oittinen, R. (1954). Työväenliikkeen kulttuuripoliittiset tehtävät [The cultural political functions of the labor movement]. In U. Harva, A. Hautamäki, V. O. Veilahti, O. Valavaara, R. H. Oittinen, V. Liukkonen, P. Anttila, N. Parkkari & Y. Kallinen (Eds.), Työväen omaehtoinen sivistystyö (pp. 49–81). Tammi.

Olsson, J., & Slaughter, S. (2016). Nordic Higher education internationalization: the new bildung or a prestige economy? In N. Cloete, L. Goedegebuure, S. Gornitzka, J. Jungblut & B. Stensaker (Eds.), Pathways Through Higher Education Research. A Festschrift in Honour of Peter Maassen (pp. 75–79). Department of Education, University of Oslo.

Poutanen, M., Tomperi, T., Kuusela, H., Kaleva, V., & Tervasmäki, T. (2020). From democracy to managerialism: foundation universities as the embodiment of Finnish university policies. Journal of Education Policy, 37(3), 419-442.

Pätäri, J., Teräsahde, S., Harju, A., Manninen, J. & Heikkinen, A. (2019) (Eds.). Vapaa sivistystyö [Liberal Adult Education]. Vapaa sivistystyö ry.

Saarela, T. (2015). Finnish Communism Visited. The Finnish Society for Labour History.

Salo, P. (2012). Kansansivistystyö Suomessa ja muissa Pohjoismaissa [Popular education in Finland and other Nordic countries]. In J. Suoranta, J. Kauppila, H. Rekola, P. Salo, & M. Vanhalakka-Ruoho (Eds.), Aikuiskasvatuksen risteysasemalla. Johdatus aikuiskasvatukseen [At the crossroads of adult education. Introduction to adult education]. Joensuun yliopiston täydennyskoulutuskeskus.

Samuel, A., & Conceição, S. (2022). Using the Critical Incident Questionnaire as a Formative Evaluation Tool to Inform Online Course Design: A Qualitative Study. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 23(2), 151–169.

Santos, B. (2017). Decolonising the University: The Challenge of Deep Cognitive Justice. Cambridge Scholars.

Santos, B. (2018). The End of the Cognitive Empire. The coming of age of epistemologies of the south. Duke University Press.

Scandrett, E. (2014). Popular Education methodology, activist academics, and emergent social movements: Agents for Environmental Justice. Interface: Journal for and about social movements, 6(1), 327–334.

Scandrett, E. (2017). Still spaces in the academy? The dialectic of university social movement pedagogy. In J. Winn, R. Hall, C. Erskine, J. Nixon, & T. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Mass Intellectuality and Democratic Leadership in Higher Education (pp. 81–95). Bloomsbury.

Sihvonen, J. (1996). Sivistystä kaikille vai valituille? Kansalaisopistotoiminnan kehitys vapaasta kansanvalistustyöstä maksupalveluun [Enlightenment for All or the Chosen Ones?]. Tampereen yliopisto.

Sinwell, L. (2022). Teaching and Learning Paulo Freire: South Africa’s Communities of Struggle. Education as Change, 26.

Steele, T. (2007). Knowledge is Power. The Rise and Fall of European Popular Educational Movements, 1848–1939. Peter Lang.

Suoranta, J. & Tomperi, T. (2021). Is There a Nordic Freire? The Reception History of Freirian Ideas in Finland. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 19(1), 62–97.

Thomas, J. E. (1982). Radical Adult Education: Theory and Practice. Department of Adult Education, University of Nottingham.

Tuomisto, J. (2002). Kansansivistäjien kasvattamisesta konsulttien kouluttamiseen? Aikuiskasvatuksen kehitys yliopistollisena oppiaineena [From educating educators to training consultants? Development of adult education as a university subject]. Aikuiskasvatus, 22(4), 260–273.

Virtauksia (2020). Vapaan sivistystyön virtauksia.

Vickers, D. (2019). At-home ethnography: a method for practitioners. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, 14(1), 10–26.

Wallén, B. (2021). Syväsivistys [Deep Bildung]. Vapaa sivistystyö ry.

Wittgenstein, L. (1967). Philosophical Investigations. Basil Blackwell.

Zieli?ska, M., Kowzan, P. & Prusinowska, M. (2011). Social Movement Learning: From Radical Imagination to Disempowerment? Studies in the Education of Adults, 43(2), 251–267.

Zuidhof, P.W. (2015). Towards a post-neoliberal university. Protest and complicity. Krisis, (2).




How to Cite

Suoranta, J. (2023). Is There a Place for Popular Adult Education in the Managerial University? A Finnish Case. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 14(1), 109–123.