The Government is preparing to publish a "lifelong learning" green paper which will explore new approaches to supporting adult and continuing education and training.
The paper, which was originally scheduled for early summer this year but has been delayed by the creation of the new Department for Education and Employment, will build on proposals for encouraging lifelong learning outlined in the Competitiveness White Paper.
And it could pave the way for reforms in student support which may be floated in a green paper, due late this year or early next year.
The news emerged as the DFEE began to organise the publicity for Britain's contribution to the European Year of Lifelong Learning in 1996.
NIACE, the national organisation for adult learning which has agreed to act as the information office in England and Wales for the year, has invited bids from institutions and organisations for Pounds 6 million in European funding to support activities promoting lifelong learning. The first round of bids must be in by next Friday.
Alan Tuckett, director of NIACE, said officials in the former Employment Department and Department for Education had indicated that a lifelong learning green paper was imminent. It was being prepared by the "individual commitment" branch of the ED - responsible for programmes such as career development loans and initiatives promoting the concept of lifelong learning - and officials concerned with adult learning issues at the DFE.
Mr Tuckett said the fact that "lifetime learning" goals were included in new national education and training targets outlined in the latest Competitiveness White Paper and that the head of the new employment directorate, Nick Stuart, was also responsible for lifelong learning, suggested the green paper was unlikely to be abandoned.
"The Government seems to have recognised that lifelong learning is a broad issue which deserves serious consideration. That is very encouraging, and if we can make it stick then we can look forward to the green paper with some enthusiasm," he said.
Bids for funding for lifelong learning activities should be made to The European Year of Lifelong Learning Information Office, 21 De Montfort Street, Leicester, LE1 7GE, by September 15. For free briefing sessions on September 11, contact Helen Prew on 0116 2551 451.