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Adults are hungry to learn but lack the opportunities

FutureLearn’s Gift of Learning survey reveals that nearly one-third of university graduates feel they studied the wrong subject, and an equal proportion of those without degrees regret not going to university.

London 15 October 2014 – A new study from FutureLearn, the online social learning platform, finds that 9 out of 10 British adults value learning new things but modern-day pressures such as a lack of time and money are barriers to gaining knowledge.

The YouGov poll for FutureLearn’s Gift of Learning campaign was commissioned to mark the first birthday of the provider of free, online courses from leading UK and international universities. It surveyed 2,292 adults aged 18 and over in the UK.

A need for free and flexible learning

While more people go to university now than 40 years ago, nearly one-third, 31%, of university graduates, wish they had studied something different — this rises to nearly half (42%) of 25-34 year olds. Nearly one in three (30%) of those that haven’t been to university wish they had.

When it comes to work, more than one-third (34%) of people with jobs feel they haven’t done enough training to further their careers in the last two years.

“It’s clear that the British people are passionate about learning. However, we’ve found that — at 35% — over one-third of the British public miss their time at school or university when they were learning new things. This indicates a real need for greater convenience, flexibility and access to learning opportunities, whether to get ahead at work or simply to keep their minds engaged.” said FutureLearn’s CEO, Simon Nelson.

Personal development

It’s not just formal learning or professional development that people are looking for. Over half (52%) of the population would like a new interest or hobby, and, at 47%, nearly half would like to meet more people from different cultures.

“These insights support FutureLearn’s approach to encouraging “social learning” as a way to connect people to new ideas and like-minded people from around the world,” said Nelson. “We have more than 650,000 people from over 190 countries learning together on courses for free and in their own time.

They are learning on computers, tablets and smartphones; at home, on their commute or at work. Sometimes they’re doing it to get a leg up at work, or sometimes it’s just for fun. But it’s not a solitary experience. Our learners benefit from having conversations with others through the social features built into every step of our courses.”

Learning makes you feel good

FutureLearn’s Gift of Learning survey found that learning new things makes people feel good:

  • 61% said they feel enthusiastic when learning new things
  • 58% feel happy
  • 50% feel proud

Despite the positive feelings around learning, nearly one-third (32%) of respondents said a lack of time prevents them from doing it. Among people in full-time work, this rises to 45%.

Money is another barrier to learning, with over a quarter (27%) saying they don’t have the money to pay for education, especially if they are unemployed (49%). The lack of funds hits women (31%) harder than men (22%).

Nelson said: “It’s no surprise to hear that, for most people, time and money get in the way of learning.  FutureLearn’s mission is to widen access to learning for everyone by providing free, online courses from some of the best universities and academics in the world. A year since our first course started, we’ve had tremendously positive feedback from our learners.

“But it’s not only people on our platform that are benefiting. Our survey found that people love sharing what they’ve learned with others. Nearly two-thirds of the British public told us that the last time they learned something, they passed their newfound knowledge on to others. That’s why we are urging people to give the Gift of Learning to their friends and loved ones.”

FutureLearn is celebrating its first birthday by asking people to share the Gift of Learning with their family and friends via social networks. To give a Gift of Learning, go to: /info/blog/gift-of-learning/ (Please note: the URL will go live at 00:01 Wednesday, 15 October).

To sign up for a free, online course, go to


For more information, contact Roxanne Escobales:, tel: 020 7412 7490, or 07903 063 018. Tweet: @roxy_esco

Notes to editors:

  • About the survey: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,292 UK adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 7th-8th October 2014.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).


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