30 April 2021

What is lifelong learning and why does it matter?

Gemma Standen, Widening Participation Officer for Mature Students, writes about the changing post-18 educational landscape and explains how UEA are supporting lifelong learners.

The concept of lifelong Learning was pioneered in the nineteenth century by educational philosopher, Eduard C. Lindeman. Throughout his career Lindeman believed education should be coterminous with life, being centred on the individual and their strengths. He wasn’t in the habit of dichotomising the differences between adult and youth educational provision.

With the introduction of the WEA in 1919, opportunities for education, training and retraining became widely recognised throughout the UK until the turn of this century. But since 2000, universities have seen a decline in adults returning to education and with the economic impact of the pandemic threatening livelihoods and reducing roles in obsolete sectors, the framework has come under review.

In December 2020, and following the Augar review into post-18 education and funding, Boris Johnson announced the introduction of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee. The government has set ambitious sights to transform the post-18 educational landscape, with changes being introduced as soon as 2022 and new strategies implemented by 2025.

You may be reading this and wondering how these messages could apply to younger students. Well, as it stands, the UK currently has over 17 million adults missing level two qualifications, and each year this number grows. Statistically, these individuals are likely to have been directly affected by the ongoing repercussions of the pandemic, and as such may need to look toward retraining or reskilling to continue to support the local labour market.

The Lifetime Skills Guarantee will provide:

  • Free and fully funded college courses to adults without an A-level or equivalent qualification – providing individuals with skills valued by employers, and the opportunity to study at a time and location that suits them

  • More flexible higher education loan, allowing adults and young people to choose the length and type, of course, that is right for them

  • Investing more in college buildings and facilities, helping to ensure colleges are excellent places for people to learn

  • Extending offers of training in a number of sectors

In addition, the guarantee builds on ‘Plan for Jobs’, which commits to supporting young people to find jobs in the following capacities. This includes:

  • Creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs for young people through a new £2bn Kickstart Scheme, to give young people the best possible chance of getting a job

  • Providing significant cash incentives for businesses to support people into work

  • Tripling the number of places available through Sector-Based Work Academies

  • Giving young people who have just left school the skills they need to find work in high-value sectors, such as engineering, construction and social care

Despite the need for students to leave school with at least their Math and English GCSEs, it’s important to highlight that there are safety nets to help them attain at a later stage, and there are a growing number of mechanisms to support this.

Currently, from the age of 19, students can complete an Access to Higher Education diploma to support their return to education and aid progression into university and higher-level apprenticeships. Young people can understand that retraining as an adult is a possibility, as well as any parents or carers considering their own education understanding that help is on hand.

UEA Outreach has a dedicated contact for mature students, providing insight, information and guidance on the university experience, as well as providing information on local access providers. Our mature student offer has been integrated into our Outreach offer institutions can assess their individual needs and can simply let us know what you’re looking for by emailing schoolsoutreach@uea.ac.uk.

And the UEA Resource Centre features sections for young people, parents and carers, teachers and advisors as well as mature students. You can also get in touch if you have any questions or would like to have a chat with one of our Officers, we are here to help.