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Call for Evidence

All Party Parliamentary Group for Adult Education

Adult Education: Too important to be left to chance

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the research programme

The reports and responses to the Call for Evidence can be downloaded here.


The All Party Parliamentary Group for Adult Education commissioned Warwick IER to undertake a major research project exploring the needs of adult learners in England. The research programme engaged with a wide range of adults, providers and policy makers with key findings feeding into a national debate on adult education now and in the future. The research will make an important contribution to understanding what motivates (and demotivates) adults when it comes to their education and what more could be done to increase participation and attainment levels.

The purpose of this evidence-based research was to listen to the voices of adults and other key stakeholders and to identify top priorities for adult learning in 2016 and over the next 5 - 10 years..

Terms of Reference

The adult education environment is rapidly changing. The benefits to individuals can be far reaching, impacting positively on their health and wellbeing, as well as improving their chances of sustained employment; however, this can often be overlooked by policy-makers as budgets tighten. A single or multiple experience(s) of an intervention can help create a real taste for further learning and development and often cascades beyond students into families and communities. Current patterns of individual skills’ development across the life-course pose challenges to certain assumptions about the current arrangements for adult education and vocational education and training (VET), particularly for disadvantaged adults.

For this research programme, we adopted a pragmatic approach in defining ‘disadvantaged adults’ i.e. adults with few or no qualifications or qualifications at a low level – and/or those who have experienced barriers to being independent in their personal lives, gaining employment and/or those with a sense of being marginalised in their community.

The aim of this study was to scope the need, reach and areas for policy and practice development for adult education concerning disadvantaged adults.

The focus of the research was on a wide range of adult learners who may be out of work, in work, transitioning between roles and those who are older learners. At IER, we addressed this by analysing both quantitative and qualitative findings to feed into the APPG for Adult Education. Written submissions were invited addressing the following points:

  1. What is working well and/or not working well with regards to adult education in England?
  2. What policies and/or practices best motivate disadvantaged adults to engage in adult learning? Practice may relate to activity in the classroom or beyond the classroom.
  3. Do we have an approach to adult education which is sufficiently demand-led? If not, what more needs to be done? Who or what, in your view, determines demand?
  4. What evidence is there on the impact, added-value and/or cost-effectiveness of adult education?
  5. Name three major policy developments necessary to secure the future of adult learning in 2016 and over the next 5 -10 years?
  • A Summary Report
  • Main Report
  • Call for Evidence responses
  • Literature Review.

For further information contact:

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Programme Director Email: