Chair in Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation

University of East Anglia – Professor Anna Robinson-Pant

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The team at UEA are working to understand how we might improve adult literacy and learning programmes in the Global South.

Universal primary education has led to remarkable improvements in literacy rates, making a real difference to the livelihoods and wellbeing of marginalised communities. Yet worldwide, 750+ million people have difficulty reading and writing. It is clear that there is still an urgent need to improve adult learning programmes, especially for women.

Chair Themes




Related Chair

UNESCO Chair on Adult Education

Vrije Universiteit Brussel


“Over the years, I have wondered how we could ever shift the dominant development approach, where so-called ‘illiterate’ poor women are preached to about the benefits of reading and writing. But now I am optimistic that learning together through the UNESCO Chair, we can contribute new ways of doing literacy which are bottom-up, purposeful and relevant to people’s lives!”

Professor Anna Robinson-Pant

UNESCO Chairs are based within Institutes for Higher Education and specialise in specific research fields. They provide policy advice to the UK National Commission for UNESCO and HM government, as well as reviewing UNESCO applications.


This UNESCO Chair aims to develop understanding about how adult learning can help address inequalities in the poorest communities of the world. Through investigating how or why adult literacy might facilitate or respond to processes of social transformation, including women’s empowerment, the Chair sets out to strengthen the interaction between researchers, policy makers and programme participants. The distinctive feature of this UNESCO Chair is sharing experiences and insights across South-North and South-South.

The UEA UNESCO Chair is an international partnership with university departments specialising in adult literacy and community learning in Ethiopia (Bahir Dar University), Malawi (University of Malawi), Nepal (Kathmandu University and Tribhuvan University Center for Educational Innovation and Development) and the Philippines (University of Santo Tomas). We share a commitment to developing innovative and ‘bottom-up’ approaches to adult literacy research, capacity strengthening and policy initiatives.


Whether in Norwich or Bahir Dar, Anna and her team carry out research projects that have responded to local agendas for change. As Anna further explains, “we take a participatory approach to developing research, engaging practitioners and policy makers in debate and action around adult literacy and intercultural learning.

The Chair has also taken forward theoretical understanding in the areas of literacy, gender and indigenous learning.

Holding regular Literacy Day conferences to help to bridge the gap between policy, research and practice, Amma and her team work to highlight ways in which universities can support adult literacy and learning. UNESCO Chair Literacy Days were held in Egypt (2017), Nepal (2018), Ethiopia (2019) and the Philippines (2019). As well as facilitating research collaboration, these events have led to new networks, such as establishment of the Ethiopian Association of Adult Education and TRANSFORMARE in the Philippines.

Professor Anna Robinson-Pant

Anna Robinson-Pant is a Professor of Education at the School of Education and Lifelong Learning, UEA and has dedicated her career to developing education tools for empowerment.

Further to her academic research, Anna acted as Editor for the Journal ‘Compare’ between 2004 and 2010. Here she worked to cross-examine learning experiences from different cultures in order to overcome the publication barriers that researchers from the global south are often subjected to. She also runs workshops based on an academic literacies approach, participatory research training, and symposia for journal editors to strengthen research capacity in the universities where chair members are based across the globe.


University of East Anglia
Professor of Education

SINCE 2000


University of East Anglia

Role at UNESCO

Chair in Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation

SINCE 2014

Research & Events


Read about some of the many projects that Professor Robinson-Pant has been a part of during her career.



Read about the work of Anna and her team, within the adult literacy and lifelong learning sector, below.