This report presents the results from the 2016 Adult Education Survey (AES).
AES was designed to capture information on participation in various types of learning, as well as on people’s perceived barriers and incentives to learning, and access to information about learning opportunities.
Learning is subdivided into three categories:
• Formal learning – learning that is intended to lead to a nationally recognised qualification;
• Non-formal learning – a course or taught class that does not lead to a nationally recognised qualification;
• Informal learning – self-directed learning with the aim of improving knowledge of a subject.
Who is Learning?
Three-quarters of respondents (78%) reported engagement in any learning in the last 12 months, where ‘any learning’ covers any of the three types of learning (formal, non-formal or informal).
Individuals aged 19 to 24 were most likely to engage in any learning in the last 12 months (89%) compared to all other age groups, however this was not significantly higher than the 25 to 34 age group (84%). The oldest age band (65 and over) had the lowest proportion of respondents participating in any learning, with 70%.
Participation rates in learning did not differ significantly depending on the sex of a respondent, with 79% of men and 77% of women undertaking any learning in the last 12 months.
Respondents holding a degree or equivalent as their highest educational attainment were most likely to have undertaken any type of learning in the last 12 months (92%).
Respondents in employment (full-time or part-time) were more likely to have undertaken any learning in the last 12 months (85% and 81% respectively) compared to those who were unemployed (63%) or economically inactive (70%).
Formal and Non-Formal Learning
The results showed that one-in-ten (10%) respondents had participated in formal learning and four-in-ten respondents (42%) had participated in non-formal learning or training in the last 12 months. Of the respondents who undertook formal learning, the majority (97%) worked towards or completed a qualification, while 8% undertook a formal apprenticeship. Degree level qualifications (including foundation degrees and PGCEs) accounted for almost a third (31%) of the formal qualifications undertaken, followed by NVQ/SVQ (11%).
Over half of formal learning (59%) and non-formal learning (56%) activities were paid for in-full by someone other than the respondent. Employers were the most common source of funding, accounting for 75% of formal learning activities, and 93% of non-formal learning activities that were paid for by someone other than the respondent.
Respondents received, on average, 15 weeks of instruction for their formal learning and 11 weeks of instruction for their non-formal learning in the last 12 months. The average number of instruction hours received for both formal and non-formal learning per week was 15.
Respondents reported that the most common outcome from both formal and non-formal learning was that it enabled them to have a better performance in their current job (63% and 62% respectively).
Two-thirds of respondents (66%) engaged in informal learning in the last 12 months. A respondent’s age or sex did not influence informal learning participation rates, but those in employment (either full-time or part-time) were more likely than unemployed respondents to engage in self-motivated learning.
Learning using a computer, tablet or smartphone was the most popular mode of informal learning in the last 12 months, regardless of age, sex or level of highest educational attainment, with 77% of respondents selecting this mode of learning.
Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG)
Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents had looked for information about learning in the last 12 months. Younger respondents aged 19 to 24 (36%) were more likely than those aged 45 to 54, 55 to 64 and 65 and over to seek out information.
Around a third of respondents (34%) received information from institutions or organisations; of these, over nine-in-ten (93%) were provided with this information free of charge, while the remaining 7% paid for the information. Of the free information provided, half of respondents (52%) received it from education or training institutions such as colleges and universities.
The most common way of receiving the free information was interaction with a person through internet, phone, e-mail or any other media (54%). This was followed by interaction with dedicated materials such as books, leaflets and websites (49%).
Barriers and Incentives
Two barriers stood out as being particularly important to respondents: ‘I don’t have the time or training takes too long’ which was selected by over half (54%) of respondents, and ‘the cost/too expensive’ which was selected by 42% of respondents.
Just over half (52%) of all respondents reported that they were likely or very likely to do job-related learning, training or education in the next two or three years. Similarly, half (50%) of all respondents reported that they were likely or very likely to do non-job-related learning, training or education in the next two or three years. When only looking at respondents in employment (either full-time or part-time) the proportions increased to 71% for job-related learning and 54% for non-job-related learning, suggesting that employment status has less of an impact on likelihood to undertake non-job-related learning when compared to job-related learning.
Respondents reported ‘Learn something new’ as the most common motivation to undertake future learning, and was selected by almost three-quarters of respondents (72%); this was consistently the most selected incentive regardless of sex or highest education attainment level.