Featured Article


Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

There has never been a more important time for adult education. The world is gripped by the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, with unemployment rising by the day, and it is essential that people are given an opportunity to learn new skills or retrain. Learning is the key to securing Britain’s economic future, but it also serves a much wider purpose.

As the former education secretary David Blunkett recently noted, "[learning] helps make ours a civilised society, develops the spiritual side of our lives and promotes active citizenship. Learning enables people to play a full part in their community".

We should all be alarmed that over 1.4 million places have been lost in the last two years in English adult education due to funding cuts and fee rises. If ministers are serious about the power of education to change lives then providing access to a wide range of courses is a must.

Adult learning has been neglected for too long, with many failing to understand, or choosing to ignore, its vast social worth. The recent White Paper on adult learning was a real opportunity for the government to get to grips with the problems that have blighted the different forms of learning for so long.

UCU welcomed the opportunity the White Paper provided for discussion, but we have serious reservations about its conclusions. We feel it fails to distinguish, as did the consultation paper, between informal and non-formal adult learning. Non-formal learning takes place in a variety of settings, ranging from youth clubs, to specialist projects. It is not as organised as informal adult learning, but is nevertheless invaluable and it is a shame that the paper ignores the sterling work of teachers and tutors who work within it.

I am not, for one second, decrying the work of self-organised groups in the rich mix that is current and past adult learning. If it were not for the dedicated work, commitment and enthusiasm of the teachers and organisers, such established parts of the curriculum such as adult literacy, numeracy and English classes for speakers of other languages would not exist. By ignoring non-formal adult learning, and those who deliver it, the government is undermining much needed initiatives to professionalise the adult learning workforce.

There may also be profound implications for access and equality opportunity by relying so much on self-organised groups. Who will ensure that such groups are welcoming to all who want to participate in what they offer? What happens to pay and conditions of service for those teachers who have to resort to putting on their courses privately using the proposed ‘portal’ in the White Paper that will link would be learners to would-be tutors? Where’s the quality control for these programmes?

The growth of self-organised groups today is partly as a result of course cuts, and there is little in the White Paper that will replace the lost 1.4 million adult places. Many of the students who went to those classes were those who joined and supported the Campaigning Alliance for Lifelong Learning - www.callcampaign.org.uk

In truth, the White Paper is not all a bad. As a union we are delighted that the government has agreed to £30 million in extra funding, especially at a time when resources are limited, and it’s good that this new money won’t come out of the already overstretched Personal and Community Development Learning pot which has remained at £210m since 2005, and will remain at that figure until 2011. We are also happy that resources from other government departments will be used to contribute to informal adult learning on the ground, and the intention to have a more joined up government approach to adult learning. 

UCU also supports moves to open up more ‘community’ spaces’ for community groups and organisations and the proposed national forum on adult learning. UCU hopes that as the voice of tutors in informal adult learning, that we will have a presence at the forum so that the voices of practitioners can be heard. This is particularly important given the current economic climate. UCU members have the experience of dealing with recessions and many are already tailoring courses to respond to patterns of job losses, or likely losses, in their local communities.

UCU is interested in proposals around the use of new technology, which will hopefully enable individuals and organisations to link up, and find new teaching and learning resources. It is essential that people are supported to overcome the ‘digital divide’, which stops many people from participating in adult education. Only 9% of older people take part in informal adult learning, and 82% of older people don’t have access to the internet.

UCU hopes that the impetus generated by the publication of the White Paper will signal the linking of informal adult learning to non-formal adult learning, and make it easier for those who want and need progression to higher and deeper levels of learning. Despite our reservations and concerns, UCU will continue to fight for a comprehensive curricular for adult learning that is varied, affordable and accessible, and to be part of the discussions that will follow the publication of the White Paper. In the words of David Blunkett, it’s time we "put adult education back up in lights where it belongs."

Sally Hunt is general secretary of University and College Union

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page