The Open University led a global-wide round table event in conjunction with the the Association of Colleges recently to discuss the value of Personal Learning Accounts. The aim was to examine how these could promote a continuous learning culture among adults to the benefit of the economy and seek a way forward.
The event was set up to provide a learning space to explore how such a scheme could operate in England - with input from both UK history and current international experience in Asia, Australia and mainland Europe. Support is growing across the sector and among workplace learning partners that a 21st century model of Personal Learning Accounts could reap rewards for workers, mature learners and employers.
Speakers at the event included Baroness Wolf of Kings College, London and international speakers Matt Anderson, Deputy High Commissioner, Australia, Her Excellency Ms Foo Chi Hsia, High Commissioner, Singapore and Martin Eichtinger, Ambassador, Austria.
Participants from domestic institutions including Birkbeck, University of London, Unionlearn, and the Department for Education who gathered to tease out how such a scheme could operate and enhance the support for those 18 and over looking at options to continue learning.
The panel agreed that expanding the choice of high-quality options for adult students – and their employers – is vital to raise UK skill levels.
Opportunity to study
Personal Learning Accounts work in a way that allows all adults wishing to study or train a single pot of funding and much more choice and flexibility over how to use that to enable financial support for fees and maintenance costs. It would permit adults to have access to a wider range of courses and training, and the opportunity to study full or part-time, whenever in their career they need it.
"Increasing numbers of policy experts have come to the conclusion that Personal Learning Accounts are urgently needed now to deliver more choice and higher standards, and meet our national needs," said the OU's Acting Head of Public Affairs Simon Hughes. In a co-authored blog for the Higher Education Policy Institute with John Wrathmell he reveals the advancements and proposals already in circulation.
With the input of leading thinkers at the round table event, the ultimate ambition is to develop a Personal Learning Account proposal with a broad measure of support across English further and higher education which could be introduced as part of the Government's Industrial Strategy. Mr Hughes said:
We believe this could quickly help the Government move towards its goal of a much better skilled workforce, and enable the UK to compete much more successfully in our new world after the EU referendum.
But he warned that Personal Learning Accounts alone need to be accompanied by high quality qualifications and the right information and choice options. This combined would achieve the collective skills needed for the future and make it possible for the personal ambitions of adult learners to be realised, he added.