From education to employment

Does the Lifelong Loan Entitlement Meet its own Objectives?

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A new paper (Thursday 11th May) from Higher Education Policy Institute discusses if the government’s Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) is likely to meet its own ambitions.

The Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) is part of the Government’s reforms to post-18 education and training. It will offer students a loan equivalent to four years’ worth of tuition fees (currently £37,000), which can be used flexibly over their working lives. This can be used to pay for short courses, modules or full courses at colleges or universities.

The Lifelong Loan Entitlement has five main objectives:

  1. to enable greater parity of access between technical and academic courses;
  2. to fund modules regardless of whether they are provided in colleges or universities;
  3. to ensure that credit-bearing provision will support flexible, lifelong learning;
  4. to transform the way learners access funding to enable learners to study, train, retrain or
    upskill at any stage in their lives; and
  5. to encourage individuals to train, retrain and upskill in response to changes in labour
    markets and employment patterns.

A new paper from the Higher Education Policy Institute, Does the Lifelong Loan Entitlement meet its own objectives? (Policy Note 45) by Rose Stephenson, HEPI’s new Director of Policy and Advocacy, considers if the LLE is likely to meet its own ambitions. Read the full report here.

Rose Stephenson, author of the report says:

The LLE is an exciting piece of policy. It will streamline funding access for technical and academic courses across colleges and universities. It will also allow learners to study in a modular fashion. These modules can be standalone, or built into a longer course, although the mechanism and restrictions of these modular degrees are unclear.

However, by setting the minimum course size at 30 credits, the LLE fails to improve financial support for part-time learners. The exclusion of distance learners from maintenance loans also risks holding higher education out of reach from the learners the Government would most like to target. Without changes, this policy risks being a molehill, rather than the educational mountain it has the potential to be.

Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, who wrote the Foreword to the report said: 

The development of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement is a positive step for lifelong participation in higher education. It has tremendous potential to drive productivity and growth and address inequalities across the country. However, the LLE will not be able to spread the benefits of post-18 education over a working lifetime, as well as across a wider social spectrum, if students studying full-time and often residential undergraduate degrees continue to receive such a large share of the student support available and use up all their entitlement on one qualification often before they even start their careers.

The continuing exclusion of most distance learning students from maintenance loans in England will also mean that the LLE will not be able to reach out to the people it needs to reach if it is to have a transformative effect. These students, who often need the flexibility of distance learning, are often bringing up children, in low-paid employment and either did not go to university straight after school or were unable to complete their studies. Many have maintenance costs.

The LLE is a very welcome policy development and this HEPI Policy Note is timely in highlighting how it can be further developed to achieve the ambitions we all want it to achieve.

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