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The RSA and City & Guilds Group Cities of Learning programme is a new model for Cities and places to design and deliver inclusive lifelong learning which is tailored to the needs of local people and economies.

The Cities of Learning concept has been developed with partner cities and localities, education providers, employers, youth sector organisations and education funders. It builds on the work of other leading global initiatives such LRNG in the USA and UNESCO Learning Cities, and takes forward recommendations from the RSA’s 2015 report New Digital Learning Age. Last year Cities of Learning was named by global education non-profit HundrED as one of their most inspiring global Education Innovations for 2019.


How does it work?

The Cities of Learning model amplifies and connects existing formal and informal learning activities that exist across places into new progression pathways for learners, routes that lead into further learning, employment or civic opportunities.

This is done via a system of digital open badges which capture and communicate the skills and capabilities which young people acquire through both formal and informal learning, which then signpost and connect them into further learning opportunities or employment routes such as apprenticeships.

For more detail on how to start mobilising your City of Learning contact to request a copy of the City of Learning Playbook

The Cities of Learning programme is based on 3 core design principles:

New local leadership approaches

Developing new local civic leadership approaches with a common and long term vision for learning and skills

Mobilising diverse networks

Mobilising diverse networks of formal and informal learning and skills providers, and connecting different learning opportunities into new thematic pathways.

Digital open badges

Giving a value and currency to different learning experiences through digital open badges, which communicate the knowledge, skills and capabilities gained through participation in learning

"Learners of all ages and backgrounds have hidden skills, talents and interests that often aren’t recognised by the broader education system.

Digital badges create a new language for learning and skills development, which helps learners identify, develop and articulate their skills and capabilities in different contexts.

More broadly, Cities of Learning looks to mobilise the potential of place based networks, new forms of civic leadership and new technologies in creating places that value and promote lifelong learning as core to their culture and civic identity."

Rosie Clayton

Associate Director, Cities of Learning

Who benefits?


The model allows a rich portfolio or ‘digital CV’ to be built around specific interests and achievements, which is portable across the web, enabling them to demonstrate skills not necessarily recognised through the formal education system such as resilience and confidence. 

Learning providers

The Cities of Learning approach enables them to broaden their reach, engagement and impact. And connect learners into further opportunities improving progression.


Cities of Learning helps address skills challenges and develop talent pipelines into key local employment sectors.


The approach helps to improve civic participation and sense of belonging, heritage and identity through learning. In addition, data captured through the platform will provide City leadership with insights about learning and skills engagement, and progression.


Cities of Learning UK prospectus

The UK faces unprecedented challenges which demand bold action. The RSA believes that testing innovative approaches to promoting lifelong learning across society should form a key part of our response.

A place for learning

Learning must continue to prepare individuals for employment in whatever form it takes - and support individuals and families as they navigate the multiple career transitions of twenty-first century working life.

Local learning ecosystems: emerging models

Education has the potential to be the greatest enabler of preparing everyone, young and old, for the future, yet supporting learning too often remains an issue for schools alone.