About Learning Cities

What is a Learning City?

Defined by UNESCO as 'a city which effectively mobilises its resources across all sectors to maximise the opportunities for lifelong learning for all its citizens'.

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A learning city has developed the following elements:

  • Inclusive learning from basic to higher education
  • learning in families and communities
  • learning for and in the workplace
  • modern learning technologies
  • quality and excellence in learning
  • a culture of learning throughout life

Put simply, we believe that 

A Learning City IS what a Learning City DOES. 

Cork City has a vibrant, inclusive, quality infrastructure of education from basic to higher education and is home to enthusiastic, involved and committed learning communities. 

Through Corks Lifelong Learning Festival, our Learning Neighborhoods and other Learning Events we are committed to developing Cork as a Learning City for all its citizens - all ways and for all. Cork’s Annual Lifelong Learning Festival is a celebration of a learning city in action. A week of free events throughout the city and county promoting learning of all kinds across all age groups, abilities and interests, from preschool to post-retirement.

Learning For All

To empower citizens we believe in giving access to and supporting all of our citizens to take up any learning opportunities, at any stage, throughout their lives. We believe that a Learning City supports inclusivity and sustainable development that will benefit all. Cork Learning City plays host to six active learning neighbourhoods - all coming together to celebrate and encourage learning experiences within their communities. 

Learning For Life

Learning improves the quality of an individual’s life by equipping citizens to anticipate and tackle new challenges and thus helps build better more sustainable societies. Learning plays a significant role in promoting social inclusion, a healthy society, economic growth, public safety and environmental protection.

Learning For Sustainable Development

Supporting a culture of lifelong learning in our city will facilitate individual empowerment, build social cohesion, nurture active citizenship and lay the foundation for sustainable development by promoting economic and cultural prosperity.

UNESCO Learning City Award

The UNESCO Learning City Award has been established to recognise and showcase good practices in promoting quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all at the local level. This biennial award is presented to cities in each of the five UNESCO regions that have demonstrated significant progress in learning city development by implementing the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities guiding documents.

Cities are awarded for their efforts to develop into a leaning city, but receipt of the award does not mean that UNESCO has designated them ‘learning cities’. Only member cities of the UNESCO GNLC are eligible to apply for the UNESCO Learning City Award, which is valid for one award cycle.

The Award was presented to Cork City at the Second International Conference on Learning Cities in Mexico in 2015. Cork was proud to host the third UNESCO International Learning Cities Conference in 2017. This significant and successful event brought over 600 delegates to Cork City; including global representatives from over 100 learning cities and members of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities. 

The fourth International Conference on Learning Cities took place 1 - 3 October 2019 in Medellín, Colombia - Learning Cities 2019 theme was 'Inclusion - a principle for Lifelong Learning and Sustainable Cities.


The Irish Network of Learning Cities

was formed in November 2018, following its first meeting in Cork, as part of Cork hosting their ‘Learning Cities Conversations’ event. The network includes Cork, Limerick, Belfast, Derry-Strabane and Dublin Learning Cities. Since 2019 all five cities are members of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities, (GNLC). In keeping with the mission of the UNESCO GNLC the network members share learning and best practice and offer support to each other on issues of common interest to their learning cities.

Peer support and empathy are key drivers of our partnership. As a network we want to work together to celebrate learning, highlight what’s on offer across the cities and city regions and we want to celebrate the achievements of learners.
In 2019 and again in 2022, the Lord Mayors of Cork, Dublin and Belfast and the Mayors of Limerick and Derry City and Strabane Region formally signed an agreement to commit each city to work together and provide mutual support to help deliver on the vision of a Learning City for all citizens.

The Memorandum of Understanding between Cork City, Dublin City, Limerick City and County, Belfast City and Derry City and Region highlighted “a shared dedication to strengthening friendly relations and enhancing cooperation between the peoples of the cities and city regions… to carry out Learning City exchanges focused on the principles of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities. 


'Our Learning Island'

A Shared Island Learning Cities Programme

The Shared Island Programme, supported by the Irish Government Dept. of the Taoiseach and the Dept of Housing, Planning, Local Govt. and Heritage, supports projects and initiatives between Local Government partners North and South. Working with the support of all city partners, and with match funding committed by Derry-Strabane Council, the programme launched in Cork will involve a series of exchanges and consultation workshops in all five cities culminating in a Learning City conference in Derry in June 2023.

All five cities have committed themselves to becoming Learning cities, all are members of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities and in 2018 formed the Irish Network of Learning Cities (INLC).

Shared Island visit report: 

INLC-Learning-Island---Shared-Island-Initiative.pdf (size 8.3 MB)


Steering Group

To lead the development of Cork as a Learning City the following partners have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Learning and have formed a steering group: