Research Impact


Transforming lifelong learning in the UK and internationally  

Interdisciplinary research at IOE’s Centre for Learning and Life Chances (LLAKES) has influenced international policy on supporting learners to develop the skills for today’s workplace.

girl doing her homework

12 April 2022

Limitations in employers’ capacity to train and up-skill employees and provide life-course progression has become a critical global issue. To address this, the LLAKES team has developed novel research approaches to exploring the links between lifelong learning, economic competitiveness and social cohesion across different countries, with analysis of international literacy and numeracy skills levels helping to explain large variations in national educational outcomes.  

Exploring education quality and career progression 

Research showed that countries most successful in raising literacy and numeracy levels and in reducing skills inequalities during the upper secondary phase had more integrated academic and vocational systems. These were characterised by high rates of participation in long-cycle programmes, both overall and on vocational courses, and common core curricula, including mandatory learning of maths and the national language across all tracks. 
LLAKES’ researchers analysed the quality of adult apprenticeships in the UK, developing the ‘expansive-restrictive’ conceptual framework as a tool to explore how well apprenticeships performed as a platform for career progression and social mobility.

The findings demonstrated that most adult apprentices were existing employees following ‘restrictive’ apprenticeships with little evidence that apprenticeship schemes supported new learning, career progression or social mobility. 

Changing policy across the world  

Research undertaken by LLAKES on education, skills and job quality has influenced the policy and research practices of major international organisations. For instance, the team developed seven indicators to evaluate job quality which have been influential in informing the European Parliament Resolution on work-life balance and the recommendation that these indicators are monitored.

As part of this the team wrote reports for, and participated in, expert committees of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Foundation for Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound). 
The research undertaken by LLAKES has influenced UK Government policy by focusing attention on gaps and vulnerabilities in UK policy and practice. Through 31 masterclasses with the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS) the research has been cited in 70 public policy documents, including the final report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Social Mobility, the Augar review, and two reports from the Government Office for Science.  
In the UK and internationally, organisations now place greater focus on expansive apprenticeships. These include Citizens UK, the Sutton Trust, the Learning and Work Institute, the Australian National Centre for Vocational Education Research, and an estimated 120 independent training institutions.

The team also made a pivotal contribution to the Citizens UK Good Jobs Campaign (from 2015 to 2018), which has supported 645 young people into job placements, internships and apprenticeships and provided advice sent by the National Education Union to 12,000 union members across FE and sixth-form colleges.  

Research synopsis

Informing UK and international policy for skills acquisition and job quality 

Interdisciplinary research at IOE’s Centre for Learning and Life Chances (LLAKES) to identify the connections between lifelong learning, economic competitiveness and social cohesion, has influenced international policy and practice on how to support learners to develop the skills needed for today’s workplace and for life-course progression.