A Moment in History

2 November 2015

This Wednesday at our Annual General Meeting we will be considering some big changes representing a new landmark in our 94 year history – from the establishment of the British Institute of Adult Education in 1921, through the National Institute of Adult Education from 1949, to 1983 when we took on our current name – the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.

Throughout this time we have strived to promote the needs of adult learners and the concept of lifelong learning. Those aims will be at the very core of our new organisation: they are central to our new corporate vision and values and charitable status, which will be voted on alongside our proposals for our merger with CESI and a new name – the Learning and Work Institute.

It has been my absolute privilege to serve for many years as Chair and latterly as President of NIACE. I have been most proud of our continued ability to independently and simply champion, as a strong and independent charity, the needs of learners over other interests. This key mission will remain the driving force of our new organisation.

Whilst the needs of older learners have never been greater, it has been a difficult period for adult learning. Our analysis suggests the loss of over 1 million learners since 2010 as a result of austerity measures and other changes. NIACE has not been immune to these cuts and we, together with many institutions, adult education programmes, and other bodies in our sector, have seen dwindling income at the same time as increased need.

The NIACE Board has worked hard to review our options. We have engaged with hundreds of members, funders, partners and friends over the summer to plan the next steps in our history.  It is important that we get this right. The skills and employment agendas are critical for us as a nation: we have an ageing population, immense technological change, too many people without the skills to participate fully in life, and a tough labour market for young people and older adults. At the same time we must maintain a strong organisation which continues to make the case and stand up for the interests of lifelong learning and learners.

I believe that the merger and the new name will help secure our long term future, allowing us to continue to promote the vision of a society in which everyone has opportunities to learn and be supported to achieve their ambitions in life, in their communities and in work.

As we have throughout our long history, NIACE must once again adapt and change. We want to become an even stronger voice, with high standards of research and more sustainable funding – ensuring we are able to continue to deliver significant success for another 94 years and beyond. I am convinced that the changes being proposed will allow us to achieve this.