Scope of the database on financing adult learning

Key terms


Reference period

The information on the design of cost-sharing schemes refers to 2014 – mid 2015. The data on their performance (beneficiaries and volumes of funding involved) may also date back to previous years. The database builds on Cedefop’s study on ‘Financing Adult Learning in EU Member States’ which included the surveys of national experts conducted in 2015.

Sources of funding

Most of the schemes included in the database have in-built cost-sharing (between government, companies and individuals) by nature. Regarding grants for individuals (individual learning accounts, vouchers), mostly those where co-financing by beneficiary is embedded in the financing formula are included.

Lump sum grants where individuals receive a set amount of money and 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 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.

Eligible group

The database covers schemes where those aged 25 and above are the only eligible group or one of them. The schemes exclusively targeted at public sector employees are not covered.

Types of education and training

The database covers formal and non-formal education and training for adults, including higher education. The following cases are covered only marginally (with only some examples presented): education and training financed only from public funds/provided by the State (e.g. basic skills) and the schemes exclusively funding apprenticeships.

Level of operation

The database covers cost-sharing schemes regulated by national legislation or regional legislation (where regions have strong influence in the country’s political system), or through collective agreements (in particular, in countries where involvement of social partners in collective bargaining is traditionally strong). The local (public administration) initiatives or initiatives at company level are not covered.


Financing adult learning glossary

Key terms


Cost-sharing mechanisms

Collection or allocation mechanisms through which funding for adult learning is made available. Cost-sharing mechanisms can take a form of collective investment (where employers and/or employees share the costs) and public-private cost-sharing (where government and employers and/or individuals share the costs).


Subsidy to support the individual’s or company’s investment in education and training.

Individual learning account

Subsidy to support the individual’s learning. Often, the money is transferred directly to the individual’s bank account.


Scheme that allows individuals to borrow financial resources from their future income to cover (part of) their training costs. The following two types of loan may be distinguished: mortgage-type (traditional or conventional) loan, where repayment in fixed instalments is required; income-contingent loan, where instalments depend on the borrower’s income.

Payback clause

Legal instrument that allows the employer to bind employees for a certain period of time in compensation for the employer’s investment in employees’ training. In fact, employees are free to move to another company but if they terminate the employment relationship within the agreed retention period they can be requested to reimburse (a share of) the cost of training.

Saving scheme

Instrument for promoting individual saving for future education/training costs. The account holder is required to set aside money over time in a savings account. Such individual savings are matched by contributions from the State budget and/or employers.

Tax incentive

Tax incentives are the concessions in tax codes that mean a conscious loss of government budgetary revenue. They are usually intended by public authorities to encourage particular types of behaviour (in relation to education and training, in this case) and/or to favour concrete groups (certain individuals or companies).

The following tax incentives may be distinguished (OECD):

tax allowances – allowing deduction from the gross income to arrive at taxable income (i.e. tax base), for individuals and legal entities;
tax credits – allowing deduction from tax liability (i.e. tax due or tax payment), for individuals and legal entities.

Training fund

‘A stock or flow of financing outside normal government budgetary channels dedicated to developing productive skills for work’ (Johanson, R. 2009. A Review of National Training Funds. SP Discussion Paper No. 0922. Washington, D.C.: World Bank). It is sourced usually from levy on company payroll. Training funds may be set up at national level (with tripartite governance) or sectoral level (with bipartite governance, based on social partner agreements).

Training/educational leave

Regulatory instrument setting the conditions under which employees can be granted temporary leave from work for learning purposes. The following two types of training leave may be distinguished: paid training leave which entitles employees to maintain salary in its entirety or in part, or in some cases compensates it in the form of grants from public or social partner funds; unpaid training leave in which the salary is not paid during the training period, but an employee has the right to return to his/her employment when longer periods of absence are granted.


Subsidy (coupon of certain monetary value) directed mainly to individuals but also companies, enabling them to access adult learning services and to choose training provider and/or content of services, timing, etc.