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Adults may receive public funding to cover (part of) the costs related to their participation in education and training. Public resources may come from general (income) taxation, the unemployment insurance or the social security system in general. Such co-funding schemes are implemented across EU countries under various names: grant, training voucher, training account, individual learning account (ILA), etc. They are part of a shift away from simply financing training providers to a more demand-led approach that finances learners. These mechanisms are aimed at increasing the freedom of choice for individuals (which may influence positively their attitudes and motivation towards personal development and participation in training) and making learning providers more responsive to learners’ needs.

The name of the scheme is not necessarily indicative for the actual approach used for providing co-funding. For example, initially, ILAs required the individual to have an account and to regularly set aside money to be used in due course to pay for training. Thus, it functioned as a saving scheme. Nowadays, the ILA term is used when the State subsidy is transferred to the individual’s bank account. Thus, ILA has become similar to a voucher or grant.

Vouchers transfer the money to the training provider upon delivering the voucher to the funding agency. Grants fund the provider or beneficiary directly based on the individual’s application, without issuing a voucher. In some countries, individuals may receive grants within the framework of a training fund (see ‘training funds’). All these mechanisms may require financial contribution from the beneficiary.

Lump sum grants, where individuals receive a set amount of money not connected specifically to their educational and training activity or where it is not possible to define or quantify the cost-sharing formula applied, are not fully under the scope of this database and therefore not fully covered. However, as some countries use lump sum grants as their main support mechanisms for co-funding individual participation in adult learning, some examples of this type are included in the database.

The rationale for grants for individuals includes:

  • providing an incentive to increase take-up of educational and training activities across all social strata;
  • increasing the participation in education and training of specific, vulnerable groups, who typically show less inclination to participate or for whom costs might be a barrier to participation
  • promoting participation in particular types of educational and training activities, for example, basic skills training and formal adult education, or in programmes leading to particular qualifications, which are in shortage in the labour market.

Schemes available often aim at meeting more than one of the above objectives. On the one hand, a scheme may offer an incentive for a broad selection of activities for a large share of the adult population. On the other hand, the same scheme may provide preferential treatment for particular educational activities or target groups. It is a matter of choice, whether one regards an instrument serving various purposes as one instrument or as a set of different instruments.