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Research proves adult education vital during credit crunch

10 November 2008 | last updated: 11 December 2015

New research proves adult education is more vital than ever, says UCU, as statistics show the credit crunch is motivating millions to upgrade their skills.

The research, commissioned by the Association of Colleges, has found that more than 8 million adults in England are preparing to 'skill up' over the next year. One in five (21%) have pledged to gain new qualifications over the next 12 months with a third of these (31%) wishing to upgrade their skills during the economic downturn.

UCU is part of the Campaigning Alliance for Lifelong Learning, launched in September in response to the loss of 1.5m places for adult learners across England since 2005.

The national adult education budget has been increasingly targeted at employer-led training taking choice away from individual learners. Flagship employer training programme, Train to Gain, will see its budget increase by over 100% over the next three years. Meanwhile, the budgets for various other types of adult learning have fallen or been frozen. The budget for low level work for adults known as 'Developmental Learning' will drop by 50.4% between 2008-09 and 2009-10, then again by 44.5% the following academic year. The general FE budget for students aged 19 and over will drop 6.4% between 2007-08 and 2010-11. The budget for 'Personal and Community Development Learning' has been frozen for six years: between 2005 and 2011 it will remain at £210m.

On top of this, many potential learners have been deterred by fee increases. By 2010, learners will have to pay 50% of the cost of their own courses: up from 27.5% in 2005/6.

Statistics show many of the lost places have been in subjects directly related to employment prospects. Between 2004-05 and 2006-07, there have been drops of: 477,000 in the number of learners studying Health, Public Services and Care; 394,000 in the number of learners studying Information and Communication Technology; and 248,000 in the number of learners studying Preparation for Life and Work.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'With millions of adults looking to retrain during this economic downturn, it is more vital than ever that there is a broad range of courses in place for them to do so.

'We urge government to reverse these very damaging cuts to adult education: they are affecting many courses that would directly improve peoples' future employment prospects.'