Adult education has been a fundamental part of further education for decades, with more than 2 million people of age 19 or over attending colleges in the 2013/2014.
The drastic cuts announced by the Government in early 2015 reduce the funds for adult education by 24%, slashing about 190,000 places for students 19 or over. This means that since 2010, adult learning has received a 40% funding cut.
The Guardian warned that, considering that in the UK as many as 21% of workers are low paid, eliminating adult education means confining a significant slice of the population to “poverty pay and no prospects”.
The Association of Colleges pointed out that professional development and technical qualifications are key for growth, and removing adult education training will cause a dramatic blow to the UK’s economy.
Adult education affects the job market, but is also extremely beneficial to individuals who decide to re-enter education. What would adult learners miss out on if they were unable to get into further education?
Adult education is essential to developing new skills or retraining
The key role of adult education is to allow workers to develop their skills and acquire new ones. In the wake of the economic crisis, it gives adults a chance to retrain, which is particularly important to people who will need to work past pension age and need support to train for a new role.
Being able to access further education is particularly important for adults in disadvantaged groups, such as migrants or women from ethnic minorities.
Adult learners are physically and mentally healthier
Research has proven that taking up studies later in life has a positive effect on health: a study that focused on the 33 to 42 demographic found a number of benefits to their overall life, including giving up smoking, decreasing alcohol consumption and exercising more.
Learning throughout life is also responsible for improved mental health, with respondents of a 2004 study confirming that they felt more self-confident, hopeful and purposeful, and had a overall higher self esteem after taking up adult education.
Learning later in life makes you more open-minded
Adults who choose to resume their learning later in life have been found to be more open-minded and accepting of differences, and many studies have shown that more educated people are more trusting and tolerant.
More educated individuals are also more likely to be active citizens: the European Social Survey found that every additional year of education makes a person 3% more likely to vote.
Learning reduces the propensity to re-offend
Adult learning is a fundamental component of prison rehabilitation, and data have shown that it is an effective way to discourage reoffending. With statistics showing that 52% of male offenders and 72% of female offenders have no qualifications, education in prisons is more important than ever. Rod Clark, Chief Executive of the Prisoners’ Education Trust said: "We know that education can stop people from committing crime, every day we hear from prisoners and ex-prisoners who tell us ‘education transformed my life’”.