When the notion of 'lifelong education' was launched in the 1970s by UNESCO it received widespread criticism, particularly from within educational circles. Central to this was the claim that the notion of 'lifelong education' confused learning with education. In the 1990s 'lifelong education' has made a significant reappearance and this time the reception seems to have been somewhat more favourable. This paper will trace this changed reception to two interrelated factors. Firstly, the arguments proposed against lifelong education in the 1970s no longer seem as cogent as they did then. Secondly, a diverse range of developments within both educational research and practice have created a climate which is much more in accord with the principles of 'lifelong education' than was the case in the 1970s.