Lifelong Learning

Taking up learning opportunities at any age can enhance your life and help you to feel healthier and happier. If you want to get out and about and do activities where you can meet other people, you could do a lifelong learning course.

What is Lifelong Learning?

There are a number of different options open to you if you are thinking about learning a new skill or developing an existing interest further. Courses can be formal or informal and range from one-off workshops, to longer courses that can last for weeks or months.

You can find out about courses in your area at your local library or community centre or hub.

Where to take part in lifelong learning

There’s lots of places in Newcastle where you can learn new skills. Some organisations run free sessions. Contact the organisations listed below to see what’s available.

Arts, Culture and Heritage

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art has a range of free activities including; a public programme of artist’s talks, discussion events, and various courses and workshops.

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums offer a range of activities and exhibitions across their venues in Newcastle and Gateshead

Newcastle Libraries runs events, talks and activities that you can take part in. For example reading groups, knitting, public talks on local history and from authors.

Open College of the Arts (OCA) offer flexible distance learning with tutors who are practising artists, writers and designers. Courses include: painting; drawing; sculpture; textiles; calligraphy; photography; creative digital arts; art and design; art history; creative writing; garden design; interior design; composing music; singing; and understanding dance. They’re a non-profit making charity that is affiliated to The Open University.

Colleges and Universities

Gateshead College is an inclusive, values driven organisation. Equality and diversity is firmly embedded in the culture, strategy and day-to-day operations to deliver fair and equal access to learning for all. They offer a range of courses for 16-18 year olds and for adults looking for a promotion, want to change career or return to education after a break.

Newcastle City Learning deliver hundreds of Adult Education courses every year. Their courses include: informal sessions to learn new skills and meet new people. Such as arts and crafts, cookery, holiday Spanish and digital skills. Formal sessions to gain qualifications. Such as literacy and numeracy, apprenticeships and much more. Visit their website or Facebook to find out what’s available.

Newcastle College has an wide range of day, evening and weekend courses.

Newcastle University is home to teaching and research across a diverse and exciting range of subject areas. They have over 200 undergraduate and 300 postgraduate degrees to choose from.

Newcastle University – Public Lectures office runs a series of public lectures called Insights. The lectures cover a wide variety of topics and are given by public figures and scholars. The lectures are free, although sometimes it is necessary to book a ticket for them.

Northumbria University offers educational opportunities to people of all ages and backgrounds. They offer a range of study programmes including undergraduate degree programmes; part-time courses; postgraduate opportunities; and distance learning options.

Sunderland University offer a range of undergraduate, postgraduate, online and short courses.

Community learning

Community Centres and Hubs there are lots of community centres in Newcastle that run lots of different activities. Such as cookery, fitness and much more

Northern Learning Trust work with people to develop their basic skills in literacy, numeracy and communication. They work with people through personalised learning programmes, either one-to-one or in very small groups.

Walker Learning Hive is a community centre offering free learning opportunities to residents living in Walker. Topics include English and mathematics, crafts, computer skills and information on volunteering.

Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) is the UK’s largest voluntary provider of adult education. They are committed to providing access to education and learning for adults from all backgrounds, and in particular to those who have previously missed out on education.

Crisis Skylight Newcastle is an education, training and employment centre for homeless and vulnerably-housed people in the centre of Newcastle. Classes include Art, Fitness, ESOL, ICT and Digital Photography.

ReCoCo The Recovery College Collective: run a variety of creative, educational and support-based classes. All courses are free and open to anyone who would find them helpful in their recovery from mental illness, substance misuse, trauma or distress, or to anyone who might find them beneficial to their wellbeing.

Guide Training NE is a company that delivers a training course to help people qualify for a Blue Badge for Tourist Guiding.


Explore is a co-operative lifelong learning scheme where members pay an annual subscription fee and can then choose to attend a wide range of one off talks or longer courses. As a member you can attend as many courses as you like.

FutureLearn provides free online courses from various universities and cultural institutions from around the world. You can choose a course from a range of topics; from Science & Technology to Arts & Humanities, from Body & Mind to Business & Management.

LearnDirect offer a range of courses in maths, English, IT and business and management. You can do a course at your local centre, or from home if you have access to the internet.

The Open University offer a range of free online courses including Writing Fiction, Managing your money, Music, Psychology, Voluntary Sector, Online security and much more.

Older People

The Glasshouse International centre for Music has The Silver Programme  which is part of their Learning and Participation programme. They provide a range of supported music workshops and events for people over the age of 50.

Search Newcastle If you live in the inner west area of Newcastle, Search may have something that would interest you. They organise activities for people aged over 50 years old. To find out about what they have to offer, contact them or visit their website.

Elders Council of Newcastle is the older people’s forum for people over 50 in Newcastle. Helping to make Newcastle more age friendly. When you become a member you can volunteer to take part in their working groups, digital skills project, newsletter and radio show.

Newcastle U3A – University of the Third Age offers lifelong learning opportunities for older people. Newcastle U3A is one of hundreds of U3As throughout the country. Newcastle U3A has over 30 special interest groups as well as monthly social meetings.

Rest Less  is a digital community that aims to inspire today’s generation of over 50s and 60s to get the most from life – focusing on work, financial wellbeing, learning, volunteering, lifestyle and more. You can find a learning course on their website and start learning a new skill.

Pottery Bank Community Centre runs a range of courses. They include, cookery, woodwork, sewing, and first aid.

Information Technology (IT)

If you don’t want to, or are unable to, take up an IT course with one of the above organisations, there are some other ways for you to get help using a computer. You can call in to your local library, which all have computers for public use. Other sections of Information Now that may be of interest include

Grants and funding available to help you study

S.Y. Killingley Memorial Trust give grants to part-time learners in the arts and humanities in the North-East of England. Grants may be used to pay for course fees, travel, materials or other expenses of following a course. Anyone over 18 living in the North-East, or wanting to follow a course in the North-East, who has difficulty meeting the cost can apply to the Trust. This is open to those who would like to take part in evening classes, private tuition or part-time degree or diploma courses.

Turn2us is a charity where you find charitable funds and grants to apply for, when you need money for essential things in life. For example, furniture, household items, white goods, electrical items, studying, bringing up children, experiencing life changing circumstances and more. They have a telephone helpline, benefits calculator and online information.

Last updated: May 8, 2024