Closing the gender gap in adult learning: International men's day
November 19, 2019 / Libby Barrett
This International Men’s Day, men are being urged to engage in adult learning for career development and wellbeing, as figures show they are failing to fully take advantage of these opportunities.
Women have a ‘significantly higher participation rate than men’ across all forms of adult learning, according to research by the Department for Education. While 39% of women are participating in adult learning, only 35% of men are enrolled on an adult learning course.
Indications are that distance learning has a much greater gender gap. Men make up only 22 per cent of enrolments with us which has enrolled more than 85,000 students in the past decade.
With the data showing men are unlikely to enrol in distance learning, when they do begin a distance learning course, they are also less likely to take advantage of the flexible schedule offered – electing to start at more traditional times. While women begin courses throughout the year, spikes in male enrolment come in line with the traditional academic calendar: January, August, September and October.
So why are men lagging behind?
Lack of time, cost and employer support are the leading reasons given by men in the UK as barriers to adult learning. Men are more likely than women to see both time (58% vs 51%) and lack of employer support (33% vs 23%) as obstacles to accessing education and training.
Our CEO, Samantha Rutter, said: “Distance learning offers a flexible approach to education and training that fits around existing commitments. While many women are taking up the opportunities provided, we want to encourage more men to take advantage of the benefits.
“Our research shows men are more likely to regard their own skill level as inadequate, with 15% considering themselves ‘not skilled enough’ to take up a course. On International Men’s Day 2019 – and with the Leading by Example focus – we want to showcase real examples of how distance learning can positively impact a men’s career prospects and wellbeing.”
One such case is that of our student, Marc Roe, who used adult learning as a route out of his catering job and into a career in the fitness industry. Whilst working as a personal trainer, Marc took advantage of the benefits distance learning has to offer to help him achieve his ideal career in sports therapy:
“Whilst working as a qualified chef I realised I wanted to work more with people. In what was a complete career change, I chose to become a personal trainer and fitness instructor. Once qualified, I realised there was the opportunity to provide additional and related services to my clients. I’d been assisting the physiotherapist from one of my local professional football clubs, in the medical department, and he encouraged me to diversify, which is why I chose to enrol on the Sports Injury Level 3 course with Open Study College.
“Distance learning was the right option for me for a number of reasons including my age, family and having a full-time job. I was able to fit distance learning around my existing lifestyle. I’ve recently started a role as Kit Manager and Sports Massage Therapist at Walsall Football Club.”
Sports offered a lifeline of a different kind to Steven Burke, 29, who needed something to focus on as he struggled with his mental health:
“I enrolled on a course with Open Study College to give me a focal point to concentrate on – something to occupy my mind and work towards. I found that it really helped me. Even on days when I didn’t feel like studying, I would force myself to do at least a little, and I’d feel 10 times better afterwards.
“I chose the Personal Fitness Trainer Level 3 course as it was a subject I felt connected to. With each unit I passed, I developed more confidence and felt a sense of happiness and achievement. Now I’ve successfully completed the course I’m planning further study to develop my knowledge in order to move forward towards becoming a personal trainer.”
While sports courses are popular with male learners, most men enrolling with Open Study College in 2019 have opted to study A Levels, which can often provide a route into higher education for many students.
Other popular areas of study with men include accounting; health and social care; GCSEs; counselling; and mortgage practice and advice.
 Adult Participation in Learning Survey 2017 (Department for Education) http://pre.openstudycollege.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Participation_in_Learning_Survey_2017.pdf
Adult Education Survey 2016 (ONS) https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/articles/leastqualifiedadultsmissoutonjobboostingtrainingandeducation/2019-01-10