Adult education and training in the UK could come to an end within the next five years if funding cuts continue at their current pace, according to college leaders.
The Association of Colleges believes that around 200,000 adult education slots will close next year if the government continues to make cuts to the adult skills budget. The association estimates that over 40,000 places could be dropped from health, public services and care courses in 2015.
The government recently announced it will be cutting adult education funding by 24% for the 2015-16 academic year, writes Javier Espinoza for The Telegraph. The association reports that these cuts will lead to the end of 190,000 places from adult courses.
Funding for adult education has recently seen a drop as the number of adults participating in Level 3 courses have fallen by almost 18%.
Martin Doel, chief executive of the AoC, said: "Adult education and training is effectively being decimated. These cuts could mean an end to the vital courses that provide skilled employees for the workforce such as nurses and social care workers. The potential loss of provision threatens the future prospects of the millions of people who may need to retrain as they continue to work beyond retirement age as well as unemployed people who need the support to train for a new role."
The cuts come at the same time as business and industry leaders are asking for a workforce with more skills. In order for that to happen, adults would need to improve their skills or career through furthering their education and training, reports Mark Ellis for The Mirror.
The number of adults over the age of 50 within the workplace is expected to reach one-third of the full workforce within the next five years. This age group currently accounts for 27% of the workforce.
The association would like to see more equal access to education for all individuals, asking for the introduction of education accounts for students age 19 and older. "This would ensure that all adult studentsâ¦ have equivalent access to loans and grants," the Association said.
The association represents 336 institutions across the nation, including further general education, sixth-form, tertiary and land-based colleges.
Others have repeated the association's concerns. According to professor Ewart Keep, from Oxford University's Department of Education, the analysis by the association is "alarming, but realistic".
Professor Keep went on to say "the latest reductions raise the prospect of provision reaching a tipping point, from which subsequent recovery could be very difficult".
According to the University and College Union, more than 20,000 people have signed a petition so far to stop the cuts to adult education.