Headlines: May 13th, 2010

A new study suggests that economic uncertainty is boosting the number of adults who have returned to learning or are thinking of doing so. A survey from the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education reveals adult learning has reached its highest level for a decade.

Figures released today as part of Adult Learners’ Week put the proportion of adults currently learning or who have done so in the past three years at 43 per cent, a four per cent increase on last year’s figure. NIACE says the number of people in and out of work who want to learn has reached record levels since the annual surveys started 20 years ago.

The study of almost 5,000 adults across the UK also shows that current participation, rose by three points to 21 per cent. That is still below the highs experienced between 1996 and 2003, but it reverses recent reductions. Sixty per cent of full-time workers also say they are planning to take up learning and 58 per cent of part-time workers are intending to study.

NIACE Chief Executive Alan Tuckett said the survey showed something of a sea change in adults’ engagement in learning. The most striking result had been the first statistically significant improvement in participation by adults from social class DE, the poorest cohort, comprising unemployed people, semi and unskilled adults and retired people.