The Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning (WBL) was created in 1999 by the Department for Education and Skills (previously known as the Department for Education and Employment) - now known as the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) - to investigate the benefits gained from learning across the life course. WBL's research explores the multi-level, social benefits of learning in terms of the well-being and quality of life of individuals, their families and communities across local, national and international areas.
Our current research continues to examine the effects of learning on outcomes other than the immediately economic outcomes such as wages that have dominated policy thinking. Over the next three years, we will explore the effects of learning in terms of individual well-being, family dynamics and community cohesion. We also plan to focus more effectively on the links between these different types of effect and to undertake more synthetic work, considering the policy implications of the quantitative and qualitative work we have undertaken to date.
The research undertaken by the centre is multi-disciplinary, employing the full range of social science research methods, often analysing longitudinal data and combining quantitative and qualitative approaches. These are used iteratively, each supporting and testing the other.
The use of mixed methodological approaches is integral to WBL's commitment to fully exploring the pathways and processes by which learning influences the individual, the family and wider communities.
Our research looks to inform policy, to deepen understanding of the complex ways in which learning provides benefits, and to provide robust evidence about the scale of these effects and the returns they represent.
WBL has an active communications strategy. As well as using the traditional methods of academic seminars, conferences and papers, the centre maintains an Advisory Forum made up of fellow researchers, policy makers and practitioners to ensure that the research is communicated to stakeholder groups, and informed by their needs and concerns. In this way, WBL seeks to ensure that ongoing research is both valuable and valued.