Labour pledges six years of free university study per person in adult education boost
Labour has pledged to guarantee voters the right to study for up to six years free of charge as part of a wider boost to adult education.
The party said it would give every adult the chance to study qualifications at level four to six, such as undergraduate degrees and Higher National Certificates and Diplomas.
Foundation Degrees, Certificates and Diplomas of Higher Education in areas such as rail engineering, nursing, and professional accounting would also be included.
The party would also allow those without A-levels or equivalents to attend college and study for them for free, with maintenance grants for those on low incomes.
Labour insisted that workers would be able to demand “paid time off” for their education and training.
Elsewhere the party said employers would have a role in designing qualifications to make sure learners are being taught the skills they need, in an age where automation is growing and amid climate change fears.
Addressing an audience in Blackpool on Tuesday, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner will say: “Labour will throw open the door for adults to study, whether they want to change career, are made redundant or didn’t get the qualifications they needed when they were younger.
“For many, adult education is too expensive, too time-consuming or too difficult to get into.
“People have been held back for too long. We will make free education a right to ensure we have the skills we need to allow our economy to rise to the opportunities of the future.
“We’ll make sure no one is shut out of education by giving people the support, time and funding they need to train so that we have the skills we need to meet the changing nature of work and tackle the climate emergency.”
The party’s own research found there had been a 40% fall in the adults achieving a qualification in either English, Maths or ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) since 2011.
Jeremy Corbyn said of the plans: “I see education like an escalator running alongside you throughout life, that you can get on and off whenever you want.
“That’s what Labour’s National Education Service will offer people - free education, as a right for all. Under our plans, skills and vocational qualifications are valued the same as university degrees.
“We don’t just benefit from our own education, we benefit from everybody else’s too.
“Tomorrow’s jobs are in green and high-tech industries. We need people to have the skills to take those jobs. By ensuring the ultra-rich pay their way, we can provide training to everybody who needs it."
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "Corbyn’s Labour is making promises that it simply won’t be able to fulfil.
"Jeremy Corbyn will subject the British people to the chaos of two more referendums, meaning he won’t be able to focus on domestic priorities like education."
University and College Union (UCU) general secretary, Jo Grady, said: “UCU strongly supports the principle of a right for everyone to learn and wants to see colleges, universities and the hugely neglected adult education sector given the investment they need to help transform the life chances of millions of people. Today’s announcements are a key step towards that goal.”