The number of adult learners in further education has fallen by 11 per cent over the past two years, new government figures reveal.
Statistics from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) show that, between 2013-14 and 2014-15, overall participation among learners aged 19 and above in FE fell by 315,900, despite a 1.3 per cent increase in the number of adult apprentices.
The University and College Union (UCU) has urged the government to invest more in a full range of education provision to address skills shortages. Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said that the increase in adult apprenticeships was "a drop in the ocean", and that without investment "thousands more will miss out on important opportunities".
'Damaging funding cuts'
"These figures are extremely worrying, and highlight the damage which years of funding cuts have done to further education. The government’s vaunted expansion in apprenticeships is a drop in the ocean compared to the huge falls elsewhere," Ms Hunt said.
"Ministers need to widen their focus and ensure proper support for different kinds of learning. Without more investment in a full range of education, this downward trend in participation is likely to continue, and thousands more will miss out on important opportunities to improve their skills and life chances."
A spokesperson from Bis said: “Investing in skills is vital to increase UK productivity and develop the technical and professional skills needed to grow our economy. Funding for the further education sector has not only been protected, but will increase in cash terms under this government."
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