UNESCO International Conference on Learning in Cork

17 March, 2017


Cork has been successful in its bid to host the third UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities Conference in Sept. 2017.  The two previous conferences were held in Beijing 2013 and Mexico 2015, each involved over 600 delegates from countries worldwide. The conference will be presented by UNESCO Institute of Lifelong Learning, held in Cork City Hall, from Sept 18th – 20th 2017, supported by Cork City Council and Cork ETB hosted with its Learning City Project partners, UCC, CIT, and other agencies in the city.

This is a first for Ireland and for Europe:

Cork is the only Irish city currently recognized by UNESCO for its excellence in the field of Learning, and was one of just 12 cities globally, and 3 in Europe, presented with inaugural UNESCO Learning City Awards in 2015.  A case study of the city was published by UNESCO Institute of Lifelong Learning (UIL) in Unlocking the Potential of Urban Communities, Case Studies of Twelve Learning Cities also in 2015.  The other two European cities are Espoo (Finland) and Swansea.

Cork successfully bid against 3 other European cities to host the conference because of its track record.  The international conference presents Ireland with a unique opportunity to further cement the reputation of the country and the city as a centre of excellence in education and learning. The UIL Directorate team visited Cork during the Lifelong Learning Festivals of 2015 and 2016 and selected the city following a strong bid prepared with the assistance of the Cork Convention Bureau who have recognised experience of hosting international conferences of this scale in the city previously.


Reputation – Ireland is recognized as a leading country internationally in terms of the excellence of its education and learning services. SOLAS and the FET Sector in Ireland is a model that can be presented as an integral element.

Irelands Universities, Third level institutes and FET Services can use this recognition as added value for promotion and marketing for overseas students and research contracts.

Enterprise Ireland estimates that international students are worth more than €1 billion to the Irish economy.  International students currently make up approx  8.8 % of the overall student body and the aim is  to increase that to 15 % by 2020.

The immediate economic benefit of the conference is calculated as over €1 m approx. with other long term benefits


The Cork Learning City Steering Group operating under an MOU signed between Cork ETB, UCC, CIT and Cork City Council has been liaising with UNESCO to make preparations for the successful hosting of this unique conference.

Contact person:

Pat Ledwidge, Director of Strategic Planning & Economic Development, Cork City Council



Elmarie_mccarthy@corkcity.ie  021- 492 4794

Denis_Barrett@corkcity.ie  086- 8368563