AoC warns of the end of adult education and training provision by 2020

25 Mar 2015

New research reveals that over 190,000 course places for people aged 19 and over could be lost next year alone with Health, Public Services and Care hardest hit

Adult education and training in England will not exist by 2020 if the Government continues with its swathe of cuts to the adult skills budget warns the Association of Colleges (AoC) as it announces new research[i] findings today.

As funding for adult education decreases by 24% for the 2015-16 academic year[ii], AoC, the membership organisation for further education colleges across England, estimates that over 190,000[iii] adult learning places could be lost next year alone.

Health, Public Services and Care, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) could be among the hardest hit courses. At a time when the country’s health and social care system is in crisis, Health, Public Services and Care courses could see a reduction of over 40,000 places[iv] next year. ICT courses could potentially lose over 10,500[v] places.

Adult education and training has been squeezed by funding cuts in recent years, with the number of adult students participating in Level 3 courses falling by 17.9 per cent between 2012/13 and 2013/14[vi]. If the Government continues to cut adult skills funding at the same rate, AoC is concerned that there will no longer be an adult education system remaining to support students aged 19 and over. This comes at a time when the proportion of over-50s in the workforce is set to rise to a third of the workforce by 2020 (from 27 per cent at the moment) and 50 per cent of workers aged over 55 are proposing to work beyond the state pension age[vii].

Martin Doel, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “Adult education and training is effectively being decimated. These cuts could mean an end to the vital courses that provide skilled employees for the workforce such as nurses and social care workers. The potential loss of provision threatens the future prospects of the millions of people who may need to retrain as they continue to work beyond retirement age as well as unemployed people who need support to train for a new role. Adult education and training in England is too important to be lost, to both individuals and the wider economy.”

AoC is calling for the Government to build greater equality into the education system by introducing education accounts for all students aged 19 and over through which the Government, individuals and employers can contribute. This would ensure that all adult students, whether studying at university or college, have equivalent access to loans and grants.

Further education colleges in England have a reputation for providing adults with high-quality technical and professional education and training. Adult students aged 19 and over can take courses that lead to basic skills qualifications right through to Level 6 (degree level), including GCSEs and A Levels. Courses range from Construction and Engineering to History and English.  Currently 230,000 unemployed people[viii] undertake education and training in colleges. Funding for adult learning courses is provided by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) via the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

 

[i] Responsive College Unit (RCU) statistics commissioned by the Association of Colleges based on individual adult student (aged 19 plus) places data submitted by 219 colleges in England from 2012/13 to 2014/15. Estimates on the impact of the 24% cut to the adult skills funding budget in 2015/16 (as confirmed by BIS on 26/2/15) calculated by the Association of Colleges for all 336 member further education colleges in England.

[ii] On 26 February 2015 the Government announced a further huge cut to non-apprenticeship adult further education in England with funding decreasing by 24% for the 2015-16 academic year. This information is available via the annual grant letter from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and a subsequent letter from SFA to college principals.

[iii] Responsive College Unit (RCU) statistics commissioned by the Association of Colleges: Estimates of 195,661 individual adult student places for people aged 19+

[iv] Responsive College Unit (RCU) statistics commissioned by the Association of Colleges: Estimates of 40,266 individual adult student places for people aged 19+

[v] Responsive College Unit (RCU) statistics commissioned by the Association of Colleges: Estimates of 10,741 individual adult student places for people aged 19+

[vi] Skills Funding Agency: Statistical First Release SFA/SFR27, 29 January 2015: Further Education & Skills: Learner Participation, Outcomes and Level of Highest Qualification Held

[vii] CIPD, 2010

[viii] AoC College Key Facts 2014/15