Use Autumn Statement to support lifelong learning, government urged

21 Nov 16

Theresa May’s vision of a Britain that works for everyone can only be achieved if people can retrain and develop new skills later in life through improved lifelong learning, according to a group of universities.

In a manifesto launched today, just days before the chancellor publishes his Autumn Statement, the University Alliance called for a coordinated government approach to lifelong learning. It presents raft of proposals to help learners access higher education throughout their lives.

Among the recommendations are to create an independent body to improve information, advice and guidance for workers, with a focus on supporting those in work and those who are “just managing”.

The manifesto also calls for the introduction of a kitemark for those employers that lead the way in backing lifelong learning, and highlights the need to identify specific industries where skills development could be boosted in this direction.

The UA is a group of 'business engaged' universities that claim to drive innovation and enterprise growth through research and teaching. It covers 20% of all UK students including a quarter of all undergraduates on STEM courses – those covering science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The group also called for a more flexible approach to learning, including accelerated degrees, reintroduced lifelong learning accounts, and a looser eligibility criteria for advanced learning loans to support modular learning.

University Alliance chief executive Maddalaine Ansell said lifelong learning was the key to a productive economy and a society where no one was left behind.

“The time has come for a coordinated government approach to support people of all ages learning, upskilling and engaging with higher education,” she said.

“This has never been more needed than now: with jobs for life increasingly becoming a thing of the past, working lives are getting longer and more precarious.”

Ansell added that higher education needed a framework that supported greater flexibility in provision, so that education could fit around what works for different types of learners. “But worryingly, the number of mature students and people studying part time has fallen in recent years,” she added.

“We look forward to working with government and hope ministers will look in detail at taking forward the proposals we’ve outlined today.”

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