City skills: Strengthening London’s further education offer

This report explores the extent to which London's further education system is enabling all Londoners to thrive in the city's competitive job market at a time of profound economic change.

Further education plays a vital role in the capital: it helps Londoners into better paid and more fulfilling work, and provides employers with the skilled workforce they need.

In the face of a looming recession, and social and economic disruption from coronavirus, Brexit and technological change, it is more crucial than ever.

But London is entering the recession with a weakened further education system…

  • It is underfunded: spending on adult education, apprenticeships and other work-based learning for over 18s has fallen by 37 per cent since 2009/10.
  • There are not enough learners: the proportion of working age Londoners in further education has fallen by 40 per cent since 2014.
  • There are not enough new apprentices: London has half as many apprenticeship starts as the rest of the UK.
  • It has not responded to employers’ needs: the number of learners and apprentices in areas with persistent skills shortages has not increased in line with employer demand.

Principles for reform

Without investment and strategic long-term thinking, the further education sector will not be able to support London’s recovery. The government can no longer afford to neglect it.

To respond to this, the government must:

  • Introduce a support package for the further education sector, bringing funding closer to the higher education offer. This should include boosting teaching grants for subjects relevant to skills shortages.
  • Make learning more affordable by offering free tuition for students studying for their first level 2 or level 3 qualification and a lifelong learning allowance for higher-level courses, available for adults without a publicly funded degree.
  • Devolve the further education budget in full to London government, including funding for apprenticeships and 16-18 learning, to enable strategic oversight of the city’s skills provision and allow City Hall to set priorities that match London’s economic needs.


This project has been generously supported by