UALL welcomes the opportunities for renewed commitment to lifelong learning that might arise from the reconfiguration of the Department of Education to include responsibility for higher as well as other forms of education.
Recent years have seen major, budget-driven, cuts in adult education provision and dramatic decline in the numbers of part-time undergraduates and postgraduates in higher education. This represents a huge waste of potential that damages individuals and families as well as wider economic and social prosperity. Also, while links to business and future careers are important aspects of adult education the limitations of provision restricted to narrowly focussed skills development are becoming ever more apparent. It would be excellent to see a reversal of these trends with properly joined-up thinking to open the lifetime possibilities of education.
A huge difference could be made by approaches, grounded in flexible and portable arrangements for student funding, that would enable learners to build their skills at any points in life and across a wealth of educational provision that includes higher education. This could have a real impact on widening participation by opening higher education to those from the least advantaged communities that continue to be significantly under-represented in cohorts progressing at the age of 18. It would also provide an environment in which the exciting potential of apprenticeships and work-based learning could be maximised.