Our Adult Participation in Learning survey is the longest running and most frequently occurring study of adult learning in the UK.

The survey deliberately adopts a broad definition of learning, including a wide range of formal, non-formal and informal learning, far beyond the limits of publicly offered educational opportunities for adults.

Each year, 5,000 adults aged 17 and over are asked about:

  • their experiences of learning
  • when they last took part in learning
  • and how likely they are to do so in the future.

The survey series, which began in 1996, provides a unique overview of the level of participation in learning by adults, with a detailed breakdown of participants and non-participants over a span of more than 20 years.

Year-on-year around two-fifths of UK adults say that they have taken part in some form of learning in the previous three years, while around one third say they have not done any learning since leaving full time education.

Engagement in learning is not evenly distributed across society. Our surveys consistently show that participation in learning is determined by social class, employment status, age and prior learning.

20 years of data

Explore trend data from the past 20 years in our interactive charts. The data can be broken down by demographics, learning status and other useful variables.


Each year we produce a report on the data collected. Read the reports below:

To access the raw data, view historical reports or sponsor questions on future surveys, please contact Dr Fiona Aldridge.

Barriers to learning

Research shows that participation in learning can have a host of positive benefits for the individual and society, including improved health, wellbeing and productivity.

Despite this, the UK has seen a recent decline in the number of adults participating in skills training and publicly-funded learning. If we are to engage more adults in learning, it is vital that we understand patterns of behaviour, adults’ motivations for learning, and any barriers they face to their engagement in learning.

Read our report on barriers to learning for disadvantaged groups.

Decision making of adult learners

We wanted to understand adults’ experiences of, and decisions about, learning. Our report on the decision making of adult learners presents the findings from 70 in-depth interviews with learners and non-learners. Our recommendations will contribute towards the development of the Government’s National Retraining Scheme and future lifelong learning policy.

Read our report on the decision making of adult learners.

The importance of case studies

The Festival of Learning award winners help provide this data with context. The inspirational stories show the wide ranging benefits of adult learning and why it is vital that adults continue to learn throughout their lives.

Discover the award winners and learn more about their inspirational stories.