How are Labour and Lib Dem adult education policies different?

The Liberal Democrats have not promised maintenance grants while Labour have not promised free careers guidance.

Young woman working on a computer

The party’s policies to fund adult learning are similar but Labour’s but there are differences in the details.

Labour’s basic plan is to fund six years of adult education while the Liberal Democrats will put £10,000 into each adults’ ‘skills wallet’ over their life to spend on education.

The first difference between the two is that Labour’s plans are more expansive and more expensive – costing £3.2bn a year while the Lib Dems policy will cost £1.9bn a year.

Labour also want people to be able to access the funding earlier in life. People would be entitled to six free years of education, at a certain level, as soon as they turn 18.

On the other hand, the Liberal Democrats want to give people their £10,000 to spend on adult education gradually – first £4,000 at 25 then £3,000 40 then £3,000 55.

The amount given would not be enough to fully fund many courses – although the party told Left Foot Forward it hopes local government and employers will pay into peoples’ skills wallets.

Also, while Labour have promised to provide maintenace grants to low-income adults, the Liberal Democrats have no plans to do so.

A party spokesperson explained this decision to Left Foot Forward, by saying: “The Independent Commission on Lifelong Learning recommended that the money in Skills Wallets be used towards course fees only and we accepted this recommendation.”

On the other hand, Labour make no mention of careers guidance whereas the Liberal Democrats promise free careers guidance.

The other difference is that the Liberal Democrats have made clear how they will fund their plans – by increasing corporation tax.

Labour have not yet done so – although this could be spelled out when the manifesto is published.

Labour’s plans

  • Every adult without an A-Level, or equivalent qualification, will be funded to study for them for free.
  • Every adult, whether they have A-Levels or not, will be fully funded for six years’ of study at education levels four to six.
  • These include higher apprenticeships and bachelors’ degrees – but not masters degrees.
  • Maintenace grants would be available for adults on low incomes to study.
  • A right to paid time off for education and training would be introduced.
  • These plans would cost £3.2bn a year and were recommended by the independent Lifelong Learning Commission.

Lib Dems’ ‘skills wallet’

  • Everyone given £10,000 to spend on higher education courses. At 25, you would get £4,000. At 40, you get another £3,000 and at 55, you get your final £3,000.
  • Access to free careers guidance would also be provided.
  • The party say the policy would cost £1.9bn a year – paid for by reversing cuts to corporation tax.

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