100 years of learning and work

2021 marks the centenary of the founding of the British Institute of Adult Education, one of Learning and Work Institute’s predecessor organisations. We will be celebrating the past, present and future of our commitment to learning and work.

The British Institute of Adult Education was founded in 1921. Over the next century, we played a leading role in lifelong learning. This included helping to promote education through TV, supporting the development and creation of the British Film Institute and Arts Council, and working with the Army on their skills and education programmes. Today, as Learning and Work Institute we work with a range of organisations to promote and support lifelong learning and social inclusion.

Throughout 2021, we have been hosting a range of activities to mark this centenary and look at the future of access to learning and work.

Catch up on our centenary celebrations

Learning & Work Institute Exports (145 of 350)

Coverage of our centenary event

FE Week have written an article covering our Lifelong Learning Century event on Wednesday 10 November

Our history


World Association for Adult Education (WAAE)

L&W’s roots can be traced back to the end of the First World War when in 1918-1919,a World Association for Adult Education (WAAE) was established in London by a group including Dr Albert Mansbridge, founder of the Workers’ Educational Association.
The WAAE had a largely British membership with its international dimension coming primarily from the dominions of the former British Empire. It ran conferences, published the Journal of the World Association for Adult Education and set up a Central Bureau of Information (on Adult Education) in London.


British Institute of Adult Education (BIAE)

In 1921 a separate British Institute of Adult Education (BIAE) was established. Originally a branch of the WAAE it became constitutionally separate in 1925.

The BIAE was an association of individual members, and its main aim was to be ’a centre for common thought by persons of varied experience in the adult education movement’. It did not have its own premises and met in hired rooms. The address sometimes quoted – 28 St Anne’s Gate, London – was the private address of its first President, Viscount Haldane.


The Journal of Adult Education

The Journal of Adult Education was launched as a half-yearly journal. It became a quarterly called Adult Education in 1934, which became Adults Learning in 1989.


New Ventures in Broadcasting

In 1928 the BIAE and the BBC set up a joint Committee of Enquiry, which produced the New Ventures in Broadcasting report. This led to the formation of a Central Council for Broadcast Adult Education, as a forum for the co-operation of established adult education organisations with the BBC.


BFI (the British Film Institute)

In 1929 the BIAE took the leading role in setting up an informal Commission on Educational and Cultural Films. This produced The Film in National Life report in 1932, which resulted in the establishment of the British Film Institute in 1933.


Army Bureau of Current Affairs (ABCA)

The Army Bureau of Current Affairs (ABCA) was set up in 1941 by the Army Education Corps under the Direction of Sir William Emrys Williams (Secretary of the BIAE). ABCA undertook a programme of general education for citizenship which some credit with having an impact on the result of the 1945 general election.


The Arts Council

In 1935, the BIAE set up the Art for the People initiative to provide ordinary people throughout the UK with the opportunity to see great works of art.
Many private collectors agreed to loan their paintings to the Institute. Art for the People led to the establishment of a Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) in 1939 with the help of the BIAE, and especially its SecretaryWE Williams. In 1946, CEMA became the Arts Council.


National Foundation for Adult Education

The National Foundation for Adult Education was set up in 1946, as a forum for organisations providing adult education. In 1949 it merged with the BIAE to become the National Institute of Adult Education . The first Secretary of the NIAE was Edward Hutchinson,the NFAE’s founding secretary.

At the same time, a separate Scottish Institute of Adult Education (SIAE) was set up – later SIACE – which survived until it lost Government funding in 1991.


Studies in Adult Education

The journal Studies in Adult Education was launched.


Advisory Council for Adult Continuing Education (ACACE)

ACACE was an independent Government-funded body based in the same premises as NIAE/NIACE between 1977 and 1983, and chaired by Dr Richard Hoggart.


Youthaid was launched in 1977 as a national charity for unemployed young people.


Unemployment Unit

The Unemployment Unit was established by Clare Short (the Director of Youthaid) to provide independent research and campaigning for unemployed people, at a time when unemployment was rapidly increasing. Between 1983 and 2001 David Taylor, Dan Finn and Paul Convery established the Unit’s reputation as a leading provider of independent research.


National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE)

NIAE changed its name in 1983 to the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education. This reflected more accurately an emerging remit including, but extending beyond, the traditional mainstream territories of university extra-mural provision; the agendas of local education authority adult and community education services and the concerns of major voluntary bodies like the WEA.


Unit for the Development of Adult Continuing Education (UDACE)

This government-funded successor to ACACE operated between 1984 and 1992. In 1992, UDACE was taken over by the Further Education Unit.



Originally called the Wales Committee of NIACE, NIACE Cymru was established in 1985 to advise the Welsh Office, the Welsh Joint Education Committee, NIACE and Welsh providers of adult education in Wales.


Unemployment Unit & Youthaid

The Unemployment Unit forms a joint working arrangement with Youthaid.


Basic Skills Agency (BSA)

The Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit (formerly the Adult Literacy Unit and Adult Literacy Resource Agency) was a government-funded unit of NIACE, which remained in London when NIACE moved to Leicester. It became independent in 1990 as the Basic Skills Agency. In 2007, NIACE and the BSA merged together as one organisation.


Centre for Social Inclusion (CSI)

Mike Stewart and Dave Simmonds OBE established CSI as a social enterprise to provide policy and practice support to deliver the Government’s new programmes for people who were unemployed.


Unemployment Unit & Youthaid formally merge


Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion (Inclusion)

The ‘Unemployment Unit and Youthaid’ and the Centre for Social Inclusion came together to form Inclusion.


Learning and Work Institute

Following a period of working together in a strategic relationship, NIACE and Inclusion merge to form Learning and Work Institute…The current chief executive Stephen Evans was appointed in 2016.


Celebrating 100 years of learning

We will be celebrating our 100-year anniversary in 2021, marking a century of involvement in adult education by one of our founding organisations.

Adult Participation in Learning Survey

Not only is 2021 our 100th anniversary, it is also the 25th year of our annual learning survey.

Keep up to date with the celebrations

Become a supporter and we will keep you informed of plans for our centenary celebrations.