What’s new in the 2021 AEB (Adult Education Budget)?

There are a few changes and additions to this year’s AEB!

What’s new in the 2021 AEB (Adult Education Budget)?

The AEB – or Adult Education Budget – is a government-funded programme that funds the delivery of education and training for learners aged 19+. The AEB can be spent on a range of training programmes in any subject area – including apprenticeships and traineeships.

What’s new?

Level 3 adult offer

In September 2020, the Government announced a number of new initiatives as part of its Lifetime Skills Guarantee. These initiatives hope to boost productivity, give adults the chance to take free college courses, and help the country build back better from coronavirus.

One of the initiatives included in the Lifetime Skills Guarantee is the level 3 adult offer. Before this initiative was introduced, the AEB only funded level 3 qualifications for adults aged 19-23. But from April 2021, all adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification will be offered a free, fully funded college course paid for through the National Skills Fund.

This is a huge positive for adults who may have lost their job due to the coronavirus pandemic and may be looking to retrain and develop a new career.

Devolved procurement

Different areas of the UK are responsible for distributing their own AEB funding. This devolved procurement has been around since 2019, and areas like Greater Manchester, Greater London, Liverpool City and Tees Valley are used to distributing their own funding across the region.

In August 2021, two other devolved areas will be responsible for their own AEB – Sheffield City region and West Yorkshire. This will be a marked change for training providers and colleges in the area who will need to contact their local combined authority to access funding.

National procurement budget

All other areas of the country that don't run their own procurement can still access AEB through the national budget. This national budget is funded and allocated by the ESFA.

After being delayed in July 2020, the most recent national procurement tender just closed on 22nd March 2021. The national AEB topped out at £73 million for 2021/22, and included a number of caps and rules that were put in place to reduce oversubscriptions and speculative bidding. The minimum contract was set at £150,000. New providers could submit a maximum bid of £1 million, subcontractors were capped at £2 million, and existing providers would submit the highest bids that were still capped at £3 million.

The outcomes of the procurement are set to be communicated to bidders by 24th June 2021.


Following the Government’s Plan for Jobs, providers can now access AEB to pay for delivering traineeships. Employers also receive a £1,000 incentive for hiring trainees, so traineeships are really increasing in popularity.

Using OneFile to deliver training

OneFile is the UK’s leading apprenticeships software, but it can be used to deliver all types of vocational training – including apprenticeships, Functional Skills and traineeships. The system is very flexible, so it has everything you need to deliver, manage, track and report on training.

We’re currently using OneFile for all our traineeship learners. They love it and so do we – thank you OneFile.”

Amanda Lodge-Stewart, Vice President | NHBF

To find out more about using OneFile to deliver traineeships, download your ultimate guide to traineeships.

Download guide

This article includes research and opinion sourced by OneFile at the time of publication. Things may have changed since then,
so this research is to be used at the reader's discretion. OneFile is not liable for any action taken based on this research.