Maria Slowey is one of Ireland’s leading figures in lifelong and adult learning. Her career has encompassed research, policy, and practice, all aimed at widening access and enhancing educational opportunities for adults in Ireland and internationally. In 1976, she received the first National Fellowship in Adult Education to be awarded in Ireland by Ireland’s National Association of Adult Education. Since then she has worked as research officer on the largest survey of adult students undertaken at the time in England, lecturer in adult education in Ireland’s main academic department of adult education, founding head of a center for continuing education and widening access in a British university, and chair of adult education in Glasgow University, guiding one of Britain’s leading centers of research, post-graduate programs in adult education, and university extension. In 2004, she returned to Ireland to become vice president for Learning Innovation at Dublin City University and founding Director of Ireland’s first university-based research center with a focus on higher education and lifelong learning.
Some of Slowey’s greatest contributions to the field are strengthening connections and impacts of adult continuing education across research, policy, and practice at national and international levels. Her comparative work on higher education and lifelong learning has been influential and includes her international policy engagements with UNESCO, the European Union and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), especially supporting OECD’s work with less economically developed regions. She is currently working on a major project involving recognition of prior learning for the Indonesian Ministry of Education.
Slowey has provided academic leadership in several university settings, promoting equality of opportunity and widening access for adult learners. Over three decades she has secured resources and strategic support to establish university research and development centers to advance policy-orientated research in adult continuing education at Northumbria University, Glasgow University, and Dublin City University. She is widely respected as a researcher, with her contributions focusing on equality and patterns of adult participation in higher education.
She has published seven books and many journal articles and book chapters and plays an active role in the main learned societies including the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning and the Society for Research in Higher Education. Her research and policy activities focus on comparative policy and sociological analysis of equity and access to post-compulsory education and training. She has acted as expert advisor and committee member at national and international levels. Her publications include Adults in Higher Education: Policies and Practice in Great Britain and North America, Choosing to Learn: A Study of Adults in Education, and Global Perspectives on Higher Education and Lifelong Learners.
Slowey helped lead the establishment of regional consortia of providers with a view to facilitating access routes and progression pathways in Ireland and was founding member of the Dublin Region Higher Education Network. In 2009 she was elected as an Academician of the British Academy of Social Sciences and is currently vice-chair of the Royal Irish Academy Committee for Social Sciences.
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