Concerns have been raised that the number of adults studying apprenticeships could fall dramatically after figures revealed low numbers of people applying for student loans.
The government predicted that 25,000 people over the age of 24 would apply for loans during the 2013/14 academic year to fund advanced and higher level apprenticeships.
But two months in, just 239 applications for loans - less than one per cent of the target - have been received, it emerged today.
Under a new funding system this year, students over the age of 24 have to pay to study courses at level 3 - equivalent to A level - and above. As a result, new 'advanced learning loans' were introduced to help students meet the cost.
But the low take-up of the loans has prompted calls for the government to take action.
David Hughes, chief executive of adult learning body Niace, said: “We are extremely concerned that this radical funding change has resulted in a massive shift in delivery.
“This shows how price-sensitive learners and employers are and the impact that has on choices people make about learning. It is imperative that the government, employers, providers and learners work together to get this policy right.”
In a policy document published in April, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) denied the introduction of loans would have a damaging impact on participation in learning.
It said market research it had commissioned showed that three quarters of FE learners would consider undertaking learning following the introduction of loans, and only three per cent said they definitely would not.
A spokesperson for BIS told TES it was closely monitoring the take up of these loans and will continue to do so.
“We recognise that under the loans system where we have had over 49,000 applications in total, the current figures for apprenticeships are low.
"However, apprentices do not typically begin their role with the academic year so applications could increase throughout the year.”