For more than 25 years, the Adult Participation in Learning Survey has provided a unique insight into adult learning across the UK. It adopts a deliberately broad definition of learning, reflecting the fact that learning is about so much more than formal courses and qualifications.
The good news is that, after a decade of declines during the 2010s, participation in learning remains back at levels last seen in the early 2000s: around two in five adults (42 per cent) say they have taken part in learning at some point in the last three years.
The survey also demonstrates a shift in the number of adults learning independently and informally, with interest sparked during the pandemic and the rise of lockdown learning and helping to fill the gap as formal and publicly-funded learning fell over the previous decade. In the same way, the step change during the pandemic in learning at least partly online has sustained: 68 per cent of adults said at least part of their learning took place online.
However, that doesn’t mean we don’t need to see increases in formal learning – qualifications can give people currency in the labour market where this is their reason for learning, and our research has shown employer investment in training has fallen 28 per cent since 2005, holding back productivity.
This is the latest survey in a series of over 26 years.