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(b) the advancement of education

Published: 20/08/2015
Updated: 20/08/2015


This purpose covers training, research and broader education in the development of individual skills and understanding.

Education increases learning and knowledge among members of the public. Generally, education includes both teaching and learning, and the provision ofinformation in a structured and neutral way, or training in a particular subject.

Education can be provided formally by schools, colleges and universities or it can be more informal, taking place in the community or online.

What do we mean by education?

Education can be advanced in a variety of ways. For education to provide public benefit, the subject or topic must be of educational value or merit.

The way in which the education is provided doesn’t have to be formal, but it must have a structure and be capable of educating the audience. Simply providing information is not necessarily advancing education. The intention of the activity must be to educate.

For example, a village hall website, which solely advises on the weekly activities at the hall, is not advancing education. Simply increasing knowledge doesn’t advance education and in this case, there is no intention for the information to educate people.

If the same website also provides detailed historical information about the village, this could advance education, as long as it is subject to a suitable degree of moderation to ensure quality and accuracy.

With formal education in schools, colleges or universities the educational value and benefit provided will usually be clear. 

Where the structure is less formal or the results can’t be precisely measured, applicants must be able to show that there is educational value and that what they plan to do is for the public benefit. They should be able to describe the objective of the learning experience and what the learners will achieve.

It is possible to advance education by carrying out activities which improve or support better education for the public. Activities that allow greater access to education will also fall under this purpose.

Where a charity is providing education in respect of controversial issues it must do so in a way that allows the people being educated to make up their own minds.  In such cases, a charity should present information in a neutral and balanced way. If it reaches conclusions, they should be based on evidence, analysis and reasoning. Raising awareness about an issue to gain support for a campaign does not advance education, though it may be a way of furthering other charitable purposes.

What activities might provide public benefit when advancing this purpose?

In general, public benefit is the way that a charity makes a positive difference to the public. Examples of activities that can advance education are:

  • providing pre-school or after-school care
  • visits to the theatre and other arts facilities
  • providing school books, either domestically or overseas
  • supporting a school overseas, including building or maintaining schools and supporting teacher training
  • providing student welfare or accommodation
  • supporting and encouraging parents to engage more with their children's education
  • providing support for students with barriers to learning
  • undertaking academic research and publishing the results online, or in peer-reviewed journals
  • maintaining an academic library with access for academics and students
  • making materials or objects capable of educating available to the public, such as in libraries or on databases
  • independent accreditation of courses or course providers
  • setting exam and qualification standards
  • providing financial assistance and bursaries
  • physical education and development of young people.


Case 1: an organisation failed to show how it would advance education

We received an application from an organisation which promoted and co-ordinated presentations on a variety of subjects, taking place in relaxed informal settings such as a community hall or pub.

The only qualification for delivering a presentation was that volunteers be passionate about the subject matter and know ‘a fair bit’ about it. No vetting would take place of the presentation or the volunteers’ level of knowledge or expertise.

The community setting and informality of the presentations was not an issue.  However, the lack of any direction or structure around the content or educational aims made it hard to demonstrate that the activities would advance education.

We were not satisfied in this case that the activities would advance education. The application to become a charity was refused.

Case 2: an organisation showed how it would advance education overseas

We received an application from an organisation that raises funds to support children to go to primary and secondary school in two adjacent villages in an African country.

We had to decide if the organisation would be advancing education and providing public benefit through this financial support. The organisation gave us information to show that they had an established relationship with the schools identified, processes in place to transfer money, and to monitor progress.

We were satisfied that the organisation intended to advance education. The application to become a charity was successful.

Case 3:  an organisation provided evidence of structured educational activities

An organisation applying to become a charity stated that one of its purposes was to advance education through a better understanding of constitutional structures. Its proposed activities included drafting a written constitution for Scotland and ensuring that constitutional change was publicly debated in Scotland.

In our initial status decision, we took the view that the advancement of education was not one of the purposes, since some of the organisation’s activities were intended to persuade people to adopt a particular viewpoint concerning constitutional provision and changes. For this reason among others, we refused to register the organisation as a charity. The organisation asked us to review this decision, providing evidence that its intended activities were structured and based on a balanced and reasoned analysis of evidence on constitutional issues in general rather than simply putting forward a particular political or party-political viewpoint.

On the evidence provided on this and the other issues in question, we revoked our original decision and the application to become a charity was successful.