Loans, levies and devolution: the changing nature of funding for adult education and training.

Over the next few years we will see significant changes to the funding of adult learning in England, and the most recent funding guidance and rules published by the Skills Funding Agency reflect this direction of travel.

Instead of government grants funding significant numbers of adult learners for a wide range of learning activities, the future will be more about adults paying tuition fees funded by loans, large employers making compulsory contributions to the apprenticeship levy, and public funding being channelled through local commissioning agencies.

The Spending Review last November announced the extension of advanced learner loans to 19-23 year olds, and to all 19+ year olds for qualifications from level 3 up to level 6. This means that from next August adults who want to study for qualifications such as A levels, higher technical and vocational certificates and diplomas can do so by applying for a loan to pay their tuition fees. Currently advanced learner loans are only available for learners aged 24 years and over. It is hoped that the demand for these loans will rise and so deliver the Government ambition of raising the levels of technical and professional skills. However, there are some doubts that this shift in emphasis to learners paying for their own learning will actually lead to the expected rise in demand.