From education to employment

University leaders support much-needed flexible learning revolution


University leaders are backing reforms in England that would allow people to upskill and retrain through flexible higher education courses.

Responding to the UK Government’s consultation on its plans for a lifelong loan entitlement (LLE) from 2025 – equivalent to four years of post-18 education in a lifetime – Universities UK (UUK) says the reforms have the potential to unlock opportunities for learners and deliver on the UK’s skills needs.

To maximise the benefits of LLE to society, UUK stresses that the new system must appeal to potential learners of all ages and have wide course eligibility reflecting the country’s diverse future skills needs as well as current gaps. The response also highlights the importance of offering high quality information and advice on career progression for the new ways of studying to appeal to both school leavers and mature learners.

University leaders are committed to redesigning courses, improving wellbeing support for flexible learners, and providing better careers advice so everyone can see how upskilling could progress their careers.

Professor Steve West CBE, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol, said:

“We have long campaigned for adults of all ages to be able to access high-quality, flexible learning opportunities that fit around existing work or caring commitments. Universities are willing to pilot, innovate and collaborate with employers, colleges, and government so flexible learning delivers the biggest benefits to society and individuals. For this new system of learning to succeed, it must be easy for learners to understand and use and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy for all involved.”

Professor Malcolm Press CBE, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, is leading Universities UK’s advisory group on lifelong learning:

“Lifelong learning can create the talent pipeline that boosts growth, productivity, and innovation across the UK. Reforms like this are essential to the success of the government’s levelling up ambitions. Universities are ready to work even more closely with industry and colleges to design courses that appeal to both employers and students so flexible learning takes off in this country.”

Dr Marius S. Ostrowski, Senior Public Policy Researcher, ResPublica, and policy lead, Lifelong Education Commission:

“The future of tertiary education in the UK is one of greater integration, with close collaboration between further and higher education providers. Removing the artificial divides between the two is key to smoothing the path for learners as they progress along their lifelong training and education trajectories. Rethinking course design and course eligibility opens the door to even greater diversification in the post-18 education sector. They are the first step to devising innovative new models — such as the “multiversity” — that can offer learners at all ages and stages of life new and different pathways to develop their abilities.”

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