The European Investment Bank (EIB) is lending GBP 200 m (EUR 250 m) to Barclays Bank PLC to support Further Education (FE) colleges in the UK. The EIB funds will be onlent by Barclays to finance the construction and upgrading of over 50 FE campuses and to encourage the development of vocational programmes aimed at young adults and the UK’s active workforce.

The first of its kind in the UK dedicated solely to Further Education, the EIB loan addresses the country’s strategic objective of providing world-class adult learning and industry-linked training. The beneficiary FE projects will, therefore, contribute to achieving the EU’s Lisbon Agenda, which aims to create a competitive and knowledge-driven European economy.

Simon Brooks, EIB Vice President responsible for lending operations in the UK, said, “Many of the UK’s Further Education colleges need to modernise their campuses in order to deliver effectively to their students the courses and training that are needed in today's  economy. This loan means that Barclays, in partnership with the European Investment Bank, will be able to offer FE colleges very attractive financial terms to allow them to undertake this much needed updating. I am pleased we are able to make this possible.

The UK’s Further Education system focuses on employability and progression in learning. A network of over 450 FE colleges serves the majority of 16-19 year olds who are enrolled in general and vocational courses, apprenticeships and other forms of work based training. Some 4.6 million adults over the age of 19 also study in FE institutions.

In the UK a relatively low proportion of young people enrol in post-compulsory education, ranking 24th out of 29 developed nations. Moreover, a recent UK government White Paper confirmed that fewer young adults in the UK gain level three qualifications, for example A-levels, than in other EU countries such as France and Germany. In September 2008, the UK government raised the school leaving age from 16 to 17, in a bid to ensure that young people between the ages of 16 and 18 remain in education or enter the workforce with relevant skills.

As not-for-profit organisations, FE colleges receive grant support from the UK’s Learning and Skills Council (LSC). EIB funding will make campus re-development, relocation and new build projects cheaper, allowing college budgets to go further.

This project will also have a positive knock-on effect on the UK economy. Improved FE services coupled with increased enrolment in industry-related courses will equip learners with essential skills and competencies to take on high-value employment with greater levels of productivity. The project will, therefore, strengthen the UK economy’s competitiveness.

The EIB and Barclays Bank have collaborated in the past to support both the Higher and Further Education as well as secondary school sectors and talks for future educational loans are underway between the two banking institutions.

Background Notes:

The EIB in the UK

The European Investment Bank lent over GBP 13.7 billion to support key investment in the United Kingdom’s economy from 2003 to 2007. Last year alone, the Bank allocated GBP 3.1 billion for UK projects, ranging from investment helping UK regional development, to protecting the environment, improving national health facilities and supporting the activities of small and medium sized enterprises. Financing in the UK accounted for over 10% of the EIB’s overall lending in the EU in 2007.