PublicationsSystematic reviewspost-16 learning & finance
A systematic review of the impact of financial circumstances on access to post-16 learning in the Learning and Skills Council sector

What do we want to know?

There is considerable interest from policy-makers and other stakeholders in the impact of financial circumstances on the engagement with learning of young people and adults in the post-16 education sector. The establishment of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in April 2001, with a brief to rationalise systems and structures in all post-16 learning outside higher education, stimulated questions about the rationale for, and efficacy of, various forms of student support.  This review aims to determine the impact of financial circumstances on access to learning in this sector.

Who wants to know?

Policy-makers; staff in post-compulsory education; students

What did we find?  

  • National surveys found that direct costs were a barrier for about 20% of the adult population, and a critical barrier for under 10%.  The proportions affected are higher in sub-groups with lower incomes.
  • Indirect study costs do not appear to have influenced the choice of college or course.  For a minority, transport and childcare costs were a cause of hardship.
  • The Education Maintenance Allowance scheme has increased participation of young people in full-time education
  • There is no secure direct evidence on links between individual or family income and young people’s participation in post-16 education and training. There is little more explicit evidence of correlation between the income of adults and participation in formal learning.

What are the implications?

  • Very little is known about how financial factors affect learners.  Research has not been able to separate out factors relating to finance and socioeconomic groups, and policy change has not been accompanied by appropriate research.

  • For a large number of people, current financial arrangements are not a major issue, though many see the costs as a cause of hardship.  It appears that non-learners do not see participation in post-16 learning as a major goal.  On balance, the evidence supports the extension of targeted interventions aimed at reducing the direct and indirect costs of learning for selected groups of learners.

How did we get these results?

Thirty-one studies were synthesised.  All were published between 1993 and 2001; three were outcome evaluations and the rest were descriptive studies.  Thirty of the studies originated in the UK.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI Centre

This report should be cited as: Fletcher M, Lockhart I, Richmond R, Clarke C, Mason S, Morris A, Ward-Brew M, Westrip R (2005) A systematic review of the impact of financial circumstances on access to post-16 learning in the Learning and Skills Council sector. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London

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