The Education Committee announces a lifelong learning revolution on a Saturday morning

On the Saturday before Christmas (!) the Commons Education Committee published a report into its inquiry on adult skills and lifelong learning.

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

It calls for an end to the model of education funding overwhelmingly focused on learning before the age of 25, and a move towards a system and culture of lifelong learning that encourages education at any age.

Adult skills isn’t a policy portfolio that gets much attention at the best of times, so who knows why it was published when it was. It’s a shame – A Plan for an Adult Skills and Lifelong Learning Revolution is a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate over tertiary education policy and fits the slipstream into which an Auger response (if it ever comes) should fall.

Part time is the big focus here – the section specifically about higher education calls on policy makers to “nurse part-time back to health”. The number of PT undergraduates in England fell by 53 per cent between 2008-09 and 2017-18, which most attribute to student funding reforms. So recommendations include means-tested fee grants for part-time students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds who study courses in priority skill areas, maintenance support for all part-time students whether face-to-face or distance.

It also says that all higher education institutions should offer degree apprenticeships, and calls on the Department for Education and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to set out a plan for speeding up the expansion of degree apprenticeship provision in priority skill sectors.

It also calls on DfE to identify courses at levels 4, 5 and 6 which meet the skills needs of the UK economy – and Equivalent or Lower Qualification funding restrictions would then be removed for those courses.

In the wider tertiary sector, there has been a 32 per cent decline in participation in community learning between 2008–9 and 2018–19, so the report calls for a community learning centre in every town. It also calls for the return of Individual Learning Accounts, tax credits for employers who invest in training for their low-skilled workers, childcare for adult learners and better information, advice and guidance.

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