This section looks at specific areas of CWM provision for adults over the past three years to identify any emerging trends. 

Learner number trends 

The volume of adult learners overall in 2021/22 was 47,522 which represented a return to 97% of the pre-pandemic levels after a dip of about 6% in 2020/21 caused by campus closures. 

Looking at the mix of funding sources for adult learning, the main funding is Adult Education Budget (AEB) funding. There has been a sharp decrease in the number of adults taking our Advanced Learner Loans (ALL), particularly in the case of WMCA residents. A new funding stream was introduced in 2020/21, Free Courses for Jobs (FCfJ) which grew to 1,135 in 2021/22. 

Levels of learning trends 

Around half of learners are on programmes at level 2. There is a notable decline in the proportion of learners at entry level and level 1 and an increase in learners at level 3 and above. 

The increase in level 3 learners is most marked within the WMCA area and the overall growth of 64% in level 3 over the past three years is made up by a 235% increase in AEB funded provision and the introduction of the level 3 free courses for Jobs programmes. Against this, there was a halving of the numbers of learners taking out advanced learning loans to fund their level 3 courses. The same pattern is evident in the case of learners living outside the WMCA area, but with a less sharp rise in numbers. 

Overall the number of AEB funded Basic Skills learners dropped by 5.4% over the three year period. The largest proportional drop was in GCSE English and English Language (ESOL). 

The number of learners on dedicated ‘For Employment provision is growing rapidly from a standstill a couple of years ago. 

Sector trends 

CWM college adult learners on sector specific programmes (rather than basic skills) funded by AEB increased by 26% over the past three years. 

Sectors which drew the largest number of learners were 

Of note is the rapid growth in Engineering (86%) which last year made up 4% of learners and Motor Vehicle and Transportation (145%) which last year made up 3.6% of learners,  

When looking at WMCA residents within these numbers, the same profile of sector prominence is evident. However the growth in the proportion of learners on sector specific programmes was sharper at 43% and the proportion of learners on Construction and ICT programmes was higher (11.6% and 12.8% respectively). 

Across all four priority sectors colleges have grown learner numbers steady year-on-year. The overall growth rate over three years was over 38%. 

Inclusion trends  


Across all locations and funding types, female learners outstrip male learners by nearly 2:1 in 2021/22, females made up 64% of learners and this rose to 77% when looking at Advanced Learner Loan funded learning alone. The proportion of male learners on Free Courses for Jobs increased from 14% to 36% in the second year. 

Changes in the proportion of learners who were male or female changes by sector over the three-year period to 2021/22 

LLDD status 

Consistently over the past three years, about 14% of adult learners have disclosed a learning difficulty and/or disability and/or a health problem. 


When looking at the broad ethnic groups in which AEB learners identify, it is clear that there is more diversity within the WMCA area and learners who are resident outside the WMCA areas are year-on-year increasingly more likely to identify as White (85% in 2021/22). Within the WMCA areas, around 48% of AEB learners are from Black, Asian or Mixed heritage.  

Within the WMCA area proportionally more learners on Advanced Learner Loan funded provision are White compared with AEB learners.