Skip navigation

New Lifelong Learning Entitlement

New Lifelong Learning Entitlement needed to help people with course and living costs to ‘level up’ learning.

People invest £7.3 billion a year and £55 billion worth of time in learning, finds new analysis by Learning and Work Institute (L&W). This is more than the Government and employers invest in learning and skills, but there are stark inequalities between groups. The new report provides the most detailed snapshot seen of which groups of adults are investing in learning, and how much, and lays bare stark inequalities in learning. L&W are calling for a new Lifelong Learning Entitlement to simplify the overly complex system, boost participation in learning by those currently most likely to miss out, and boost the UK economy.

The Time to Learn report, based on analysis of L&W’s long-running Adult Participation in Learning Survey, found that younger people are three times more likely to participate in learning than older people and also invest three times as much per year (£3,900 v £1,300). This lower investment by older people is a problem given longer working lives and economic change require people to update their skills more often through life.

The same is true of investment by region and country. People in London (£1,400) invest more than double per person compared to the South East (£565) and Scotland (£624). This could put ‘levelling up’ at risk given the impact learning has on economic growth and individual opportunity.

The data come after previous L&W research showed that Government investment in skills is set to be £1 billion lower in 2025 compared to 2010, and that employer investment in training per employee has fallen 28% since 2005. Taken together, they suggest the UK is under-investing in skills and learning, and risks staying stuck in the middle of the pack by international standards. That would put at risk future growth and prosperity.

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive at Learning and Work Institute, said:
“People invest hugely in their own learning, but the focus is often on the Government and employers. Our analysis shows huge inequalities between demographic groups and geographic areas that are holding us all back. Part of the reason is that policy doesn’t sufficiently support people to learn. We need much better support with the costs of learning, good quality careers advice, and joined-up national and local action to promote learning.”

Graham Hasting-Evans, Chief Executive of NOCN Group, said:
“I was surprised by the scale of individual investment, but pleased to see young people committed to investing in their careers. What I would like to see more of is simplification and extension of the Lifelong Learning Entitlement with support for the over 15 million older people in the workforce that are at level 3 or below. Their contribution to our economy and achievement of Net Zero is as important as people with a level 4 or above qualification.”

The new research looks at how to change this picture and increase participation and investment in learning. It argues for a new Lifelong Learning Entitlement, to simplify and increase support for the costs of learning.

The report further recommends:

  • New Learning Accounts for all adults, with a £5,000 contribution to course fees with targeted top ups and people and employers able to invest too;
  • New Learning Places scheme, with local government asked to work with partners to draw up plans to increase participation in learning by adults; and
  • A further boost to flexible learning that fits around people’s home and work lives.

As part of this, people who are out of work should be able to study full-time for up to 12 months (extending the current limit, called Train and Progress, of 12 weeks) where their Work Coach agrees.

For people in work, the current Right to Request Time to Train should be extended and strengthened. The current right only applies to those working in employers with more than 250 employees, is limited to learning for people’s current job, and employers can refuse if they have legitimate business reasons. The report proposes the right to request should be extended to people working in firms of all sizes, widened to include accredited training not related to people’s current jobs, and strengthened to a right to time off (rather than just to request) for people working in large firms.

The paper calls for a step change in maintenance support for adult learners. That includes allowing people who are out of work should be able to study full-time for up to 12 months (extending the current limit, called Train and Progress, of 12 weeks) where their Work Coach agrees, as well as offering maintenance loans to people exercising their right to time to train and to people out of work but not on benefits studying their first level 3 qualification. This support is ever more crucial given the cost of living crisis.


Emily Jones, Deputy Director, Learning and Work Institute, 07771 524 254,


1. Learning and Work Institute (L&W) is an independent policy, research and development organisation dedicated to lifelong learning, full employment and inclusion. We research what works, influence policy, develop new ways of thinking, and help implement new approaches.

2. Our previous research showed that employer investment in training per employee has fallen 28% since 2005, and that Government investment in adult skills in England is set to be £1 billion lower in 2025 than it was in 2010.