Lifelong Learning Fund for Everyone

A "new era of learning throughout life" is a step nearer today.  The Independent Commission on Lifelong Learning have today set out their vision for education including proposals for government grants of up to £9,000.

The grants, which would be invested into universal Personal Education and Skills Accounts (PESA), are designed to encourage and support everyone who undertakes education and training throughout their life.

The plans which have been launched by the Chairman of the Commission on Lifelong Learning, Rajay Naik - and backed by the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable - would see the Government make three contributions each worth £3,000 to the accounts when individuals turn 25, 40 and 55. 

Giving opportunities to access education and training which continue throughout adulthood, is a vital part of ensuring we have a highly skilled workforce, and that individuals are able to access fulfilling employment throughout their lives. 

Liberal Democrats have always been committed to ensuring that education is accessible to all and we welcome the fact that these reforms would ensure that no one, irrespective of their background, is restricted in their opportunities to succeed.


A full copy of the report ‘Personal Education and Skills Accounts: Recommendations from the Independent Commission on Lifelong Learning’ can be found here.

For more information on the Personal Education and Skills Account (PESA), please see below.

  • Introducing a universal Personal Education and Skills Account (PESA) which will be opened for every adult resident in England at the age of 18, to encourage saving towards the costs of education and training throughout life.
  • The Government will make three contributions, each worth £3,000, to the accounts when the account holder turns 25, 40 and 55.
  • Account holders and their employers will also be able to make payments into the accounts. This will be incentivised by the Government offering tax relief and/or match-funding on contributions made by account holders.
  • Governments will also be able to choose to make additional payments into accounts. These could be triggered by specific events such as redundancy or a period of long-term unemployment, or targeted to reduce social and economic inequality, such as by being given to workers on low incomes or with a low level of qualifications.
  • From the age of 25 onwards, account holders will be able to use money saved in the accounts to pay for education and training courses which are delivered through accredited providers.
  • When using money from their accounts, account holders will be given careers guidance sessions to support them in choosing a course or qualification which will help them achieve their personal or career development aims. 
  • Accounts will remain open and available to account holders throughout their life.

Members of the commission, who are all leading experts in the education and skills sector, include:

Rajay Naik – Chief Commercial Officer at Study Group (Chair)
David Barrett – Former Assistant Director, Access and Participation, Office for Students
Stephen Evans – Chief Executive, Learning and Work Institute
David Hughes – Chief Executive, Association of Colleges
Sir Simon Hughes – Chancellor of London South Bank University
Shakira Martin –  President, National Union of Students
Dame Ruth Silver – President, Further Education Trust for Leadership
Ruth Spellman – Chief Executive and General Secretary, Workers' Educational Association
Matthew Taylor – Chief Executive, Royal Society of Arts
John Widdowson – Principal, New College Durham

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said:

“This is a timely and helpful report as the consensus grows from all parts of Westminster and from business that the time has finally come to rebalance the provision of education and skills to create a truly world class post-18 education system.

"As our country’s skills gaps widen further, and as the world of work continues to change at such a rapid pace, it is right that people are given more control and agency over their training and learning at all stages of their lives – Personal Education and Skills Accounts have the potential to play an important role in this.”  

David Barrett, former Assistant Director of the Office for Students, said:

"The benefits of lifelong learning for society and individuals are clear. If we are to truly enable a more equitable society, we need to create and support a culture of lifelong learning for all and in particular for those who face the persistent barriers of social and educational disadvantage."

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said:

“Lifelong learning has perhaps never been more important, it is essential for helping people and employers adapt to economic change and promoting health, wellbeing and active citizenship. Yet budget cuts mean fewer adults are in learning and our research shows the UK risks falling further behind other countries by 2030.

"We need to set a higher ambition. This will require additional investment but also new ways of engaging adults. Personal accounts can play a vital role in both of these, putting people more in control of their learning and creating new ways for Government, employers and individuals to invest together. They are an idea that the Learning and Work Institute have long championed and an idea whose time has come.”

Ruth Spellman, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Workers' Educational Association, said:

“The overwhelming emphasis of policy and finance is still on the education and skills of young people. We currently have a weakened infrastructure to support adult learners especially the most disadvantaged and the number of adult learners has fallen dramatically in the last decade. The report highlights why this is unhelpful in the modern economy and that we are failing many adults and employers who need up to date skills, throughout working life.

“We need an education and skills strategy and system which supports the 80 per cent of people who are already in work, who will be working longer and who face major structural changes in labour markets and technological displacement.

 “This report makes important and helpful recommendations which are relevant to the modern economy and which could deliver greater flexibility and opportunity for adult learners if implemented. Learning accounts will ensure that individuals are better able to afford education at all stages of life and one of the positive ways we are able to redress the balance for adult learners.

 “We look forward to taking part in the pilot and ask the Chancellor and Department for Education to consider supporting this proposal as part of this year’s comprehensive spending review."

Dame Ruth Silver, President of the Further Education Trust for Leadership, said: 

"Lifelong learning must be part of the way in which we think about and plan our societies, we must think harder about its place in our education system, for the future demands more not less learning to develop the range of required capabilities."

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