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Government must back lifelong learning

Ahead of the Autumn Statement, University Alliance publishes a lifelong learning manifesto setting out proposals to help learners access higher education throughout their lives.

The government has repeatedly talked about the need to promote economic prosperity and resilience. University Alliance’s manifesto argues that the Prime Minister’s promise of a ‘country that works for everyone’ can only be realised if people can access second chances, upskilling and retraining in later life, including those who are already in the labour market.

UA’s proposals include:

  • Improving information, advice and guidance: with a coordinated approach, led by an independent body and focused on supporting people in work and those ‘just managing’;
  • Flexing the funding arrangements: supporting accelerated degrees, reintroducing lifelong learning accounts, and loosening the eligibility criteria for Advanced Learning Loans to support modular learning;
  • Incentivising collaboraton and investment: introduce a kitemark for employers that lead the way in backing lifelong learning, and identify specific industries where skills development could be boosted by lifelong learning.

The report slams what it describes as the ‘Sutton Trust’ approach to widening access to university: focused on getting a very small number of high performing students into the most high-tariff universities and a reluctance to accept the familial, cultural or other reasons why some students would welcome a more flexible approach or being able to study at home.

Commenting, University Alliance Chief Executive Maddalaine Ansell said:

“The time has come for a coordinated government approach to support people of all ages learning, upskilling and engaging with higher education. Lifelong learning is the key to a productive economy and a society where no one is left behind.

“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. Higher education needs a framework which supports greater flexibility in provision, so that education can 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.

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

Notes to editors:

  1. University Alliance’s Lifelong learning manifesto can be found here.
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