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Institutes for Adult Learning - Research project on Adult Education 2017

Institutes for Adult Learning

Research project on Adult Education 2017

Investing in adult education: health and well-being benefits


Research findings published in January 2018


The Institutes for Adult Learning (IAL) have commissioned a new research project in response to recommendations within IER’s recent report ‘Adult Education: Too important to be left to chance’.

The purpose of this 'Call For Evidence' is to gather the views of key stakeholders, partners and providers on the contribution of adult education to health & wellbeing outcomes. We have deliberately not attempted to define the parameters of the Call For Evidence too tightly as we want respondents to explore many different aspects of health & wellbeing. We hope to hear from those interested in any aspect of physical or mental health, including health & wellbeing in the context of age, disability, ethnicity, gender and location.

The deadline for written evidence is Wednesday 31st May. The submissions will guide the research team to focus on the other research activities, such as a desk-based literature and evidence overview that analyses government health policies - primarily focused on the Department of Health and, where relevant, allied policy areas and a review of relevant evidence, available data, including case studies on the wider health and well-being benefits of adult education.

This study will make an important contribution to understanding how adult education can contribute to policies and practices in health & well-being. The aim is to explore the benefits of adult learning on people’s health and well-being and how national policy in England for health & well-being and for adult education can be linked more closely.

Terms of reference

The initial research into the impact of adult education ‘Adult Education – Too important to be left to chance’, found that attending courses could directly improve the lives of individuals and contribute positively to a very wide range of outcomes However, there is a potential risk of policy makers and funders adopting a narrow (employment-focused) definition of outcomes that fails to recognise this broader contribution which adult education can make. It is therefore critical that the contribution of adult education including its contribution to improving health and well-being (which are pre-requisites for progression into and within employment) must not be lost or forgotten within current and any new policy thinking at national or regional level.

A national adult education framework that acknowledges health & well-being, alongside skills and employability would be a major step forward.

The aim of this study is to identify and review evidence-based research and make recommendations about the benefits of adult learning and the need to join up policy across Education, Health and other cross-cutting areas such as workplace health (BEIS and DWP), physical activity (DCMS) and public health (DCLG) across England.

The focus of the Call for Evidence will be on identifying where there are existing links in health and well-being policy and practice to adult education and opportunities for responding to any gaps in policy.

Written submissions are invited addressing the following points:

I. What evidence is there of the impact, added-value and/or cost-effectiveness of adult education in terms of improving health & well-being either generally or in a specific context (e.g. in relation to a specific medical condition or the benefits to a specific group within the community)?

II. What policies have been successful in linking adult learning practice with health and well-being outcomes (or vice versa)?

III. What more could be done to strengthen links between policy and practice in England in relation to adult education and health and well-being?

IV. How can adult education be promoted more effectively in the context of health services in the public, voluntary or private sectors? (Provide examples if you are aware of existing good practice)

V. Do you hold evidence, data or examples of referrals to adult education through health and wellbeing services/organisations? If YES, could you please share key documents, data and/or types of referrals.

VI. What top three changes – in either policy or practice – would lead to better health & well-being outcomes through adult education provision? How far is this from the current situation?


In your response, you may choose to focus on some or all of the above-mentioned questions. To successfully make a submission via the online form on the IER website, documents need to:

  • Be less than 25 MB in size;
  • Be in Word (doc, docx, rtf, txt ooxml or odt format, not PDF);
  • Contain no logos or embedded pictures;
  • Contain no macros;
  • Comprise a single document. If there are any annexes or appendices, these should be included in the same document.
  • A template is available.

Each submission should:

  • State clearly who the submission is from, i.e. whether from yourself in a personal capacity or sent on behalf of an organisation, for example the submission could be headed ‘Written evidence submitted by name, role and organisation’;
  • Include a brief introduction about yourself/your organisation and your reason for submitting evidence;
  • Be concise – we recommend no more than 2,000 words in length (bullet points may be used);
  • Begin with a brief executive summary in bullet point form of the main points made in the submission;
  • Have numbered paragraphs;
  • Include any factual information you have to offer from which the Inquiry might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses for their reactions;
  • Include any recommendations for action by the Government or others which you would like the Inquiry to consider.


Project sponsor:

Institutes for Adult Learning

Project team:

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE - Principal Investigator & Associate Fellow, IER

Karen Adriaanse