Adult education needs to be recognised as an investment, and not as a cost, the FinALE project partners say.
19.02.2018

Uncovering funding trends for adult education

The financing of adult education has a variety of dimensions: from the fragmented nature of the funding to a learner’s and organisation’s perspective to the key challenges at the policy-making level. On 6 December 2017, the FinALE partners organised a workshop in Brussels on the topic of “Adult Education and Learning: Securing recognition and financial sustainability”.

“The systems of funding of adult education vary greatly between the European countries,” said Glenda Quintini, Senior Economist of the OECD and one of the authors of the recent publication on Financial Incentives for Steering Education and Training.

“We can see mega-trends sweeping across the economies which have a profound impact on the types of jobs that are available and the skills required. At the same time, there are also changes in who demands skills and is ready to pay for them: it is increasingly the individuals who would like to invest in their own skills and competences, alongside the employers who have an obvious interest in the upskilling of their workers.”

According to the key findings of the study, this change in demand has a big impact on how adult education is financed, with a trend towards funding by the individuals and employers, and away from public funding. While this general direction may be true for many countries and contexts, it applies particularly to learning required for the workplace. While individuals perceive a growing pressure to invest in their own learning to be able to succeed on the labour market, employers need to stay competitive, which is only possible by improving the skills and competences of their workers.

However, non-formal adult education is much larger and encompasses also all kinds of education for one’s personal fulfilment. Many adult education providers in Europe finance these educational offers through the surplus that they make with their more ‘profitable’ courses, for instance ICT, language or VET courses, trying to keep both sides of adult education in balance.

Derek Murphy, a learner at Soilse Ireland and a champion of adult education, shared his personal learning story.

“I made my first steps back into education through a non-formal course. Once I had a foot in learning, I wanted to continue my education. I moved from having no perspectives to a happy and fulfilled private and professional life.”

Dave O’Brien, director at Soilse, said that without public funding, it would be very difficult to finance – even at the intra-organisational level – programmes like these that reach out to those who are furthest away from learning.

Structural funding needed

Another major trend in the financing of adult education is that when there is public funding, it is increasingly formula funding and project funding, which means funding for the delivery of a specific course or training, often within a certain period and for a pre-defined target group. Consequently, funding for adult education becomes less sustainable and requires a continuous applying for new funding as well as reporting on the funding.

“Non-formal adult education needs structural funding that allows organisations to innovate and to invest in the professionalisation of their staff,” said Gina Ebner, Secretary General of EAEA, referring to the Policy recommendations that were developed in the FinALE project.

This was also underlined by the participants of the workshop. In the last session of the workshop, they were asked to vote on the most important priorities for the funding of adult education. Unanimously, they said that adult education needs to be recognised as an investment, and not as a cost.

More information

Text: Raffaela KihrerPhotos: © European Union, 2015 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Cristof Echard

16.08.2022 EAEA Grundtvig Award 2022

Financial literacy for women

“There is a rising global interest and huge need for financial literacy” says Athina Psariai from Institute of Entrepreneurship Development (IED). Psariai introduces the FLOW project, which focuses on financial education of marginalised women and received honourable mention at the EAEA Grundtvig Awards 2022.

11.08.2022 EAEA members

Learning and employment opportunities in a society of equals: meet Learning and Work Institute

“Our vision is for a prosperous and fair society in which learning and work provide opportunities for everyone to realise their potential and ambitions throughout life”, says Alex Stevenson, Head of Essential and Life Skills at the Learning and Work Institute. In interview with EAEA, Stevenson gives insight into the work of the institute. This article is part of EAEA’s campaign introducing our members to the wider adult education community.

09.08.2022 disabled

Brave New Words: Creating learning pathways for special learning disorders

“Critical thinking and autonomy are core values of transformative learning”, says Sonia Nicoforo Project Manager of CEIPES. Brave New Words, the winning project of Grundtvig Awards in the Transnational Category focuses on cultivating innovative learning through 3D Printing and Augmented Reality in the field of Special Education.