Valuing the impact of adult learning

19 June 2012

Participating in part-time adult learning courses has significantly positive effects on individual well-being – including health, employability, social relationships and the likelihood of taking up voluntary work – according to a new research approach examining the economic and social effects of part-time adult learning for NIACE, The SROI Network and the Local Government Association.

The research – Valuing the Impact of Adult Learning by Daniel Fujiwara of the London School of Economics and Political Science – which uses the latest methods as recommended in recent HM Treasury Green Book guidance (Fujiwara and Campbell, 2011), also found that for adults, participating in two part-time courses during a single year will lead to:

  • improvements in health, which has a value of £148 to the individual;
  • a greater likelihood of finding a job and/or staying in a job, which has a value of £224 to the individual;
  • better social relationships, which has a value of £658 to the individual; and
  • a greater likelihood that people volunteer on a regular basis, which has a value of £130 to the individual.

Penny Lamb, Head of Policy Development at NIACE, said:

“This is exciting research that builds on our work with a group of organisations funded through the Adult and Community Learning Fund to assess the social return of investing in community based adult learning. These specific outcomes represent a recurring pattern of positive change across the projects. It is good news to see this confirmed in this exploratory piece of research. Our task now is to develop these findings and ensure they influence forthcoming funding and commissioning decisions.”

Daniel Fujiwara, London School of Economics and Political Science, said:

“Valuing social impacts has traditionally been undertaken through preference-based valuation methods. These techniques look at revealed preferences in the market (for example the market price of a course) or the use contingent valuation surveys that ask people to state their preferences in terms of willingness to pay. These methods have increasingly come under scrutiny since a number of cognitive biases have demonstrated that people’s preferences may not always be coherent and align well with their welfare of wellbeing.”

“This paper estimates values for a range of intangible outcomes associated with adult learning. We measure the impacts that adult learning has on wellbeing through four domains in life: social relationships, employability, volunteering and health and monetise the value of these impacts. This will provide a guide to assessing the relative benefits and costs of adult learning interventions on one metric. The method allows us to estimate the monetary values of areas of adult learning that have not been assessed previously in the literature and it also brings the subject of adult learning in to the general public policy debate on wellbeing in the UK.”