From education to employment

LLE: Student finance to be radically transformed from 2025 – Sector Response

students walking through gate
  • New and more flexible student finance system to be introduced which will empower adults to upskill or retrain throughout their working lives, transform the higher education system and upskill the workforce for the future economy
  • Shake up of the system will give students access to four years of tuition funding (£37,000 in today’s fees) to use flexibly on both full and part-time study, and new modules of courses 
  • Maintenance support will be expanded to more technical and part-time courses, and modules of courses too – offering a lifeline to young people just starting out as well as those returning to education  

People across the country are set to benefit from a complete overhaul of student finance, helping them get flexible loan funding to train, retrain and upskill throughout their working lives. 

The Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) will empower more people to study in a way that works for them, opening up opportunities for those that might have never considered higher education. This could help them balance training or studies alongside other commitments such as childcare or financial commitments, which will revolutionise social mobility and plug skills gaps. 

Under the world-leading plans published today, the Government has confirmed that from 2025, people will be able to access loans worth the equivalent of four years of post-18 education (£37,000 in today’s tuition fees) under the LLE and use them flexibly over their working lives to suit their circumstances – transforming the student finance system.

The loan can be used to pay for full or part time study, for a variety of courses – from degrees to Higher Technical Qualifications, and including modules. Like a flexi-travel card, it allows people to jump on and off their learning, as opposed to having a ticket with a single destination. 

Students will be able to keep track of their studies and see how much funding they have left in a personal account, and access information about the courses and modules they can spend it on. This will be available online, and operate much like a bank account. 

Maintenance loans will also be available for students studying many more technical and part-time courses, including modules of courses for the first time. This will set the system on a par with traditional full-time study and open up new study and training opportunities for people from all backgrounds.  

People who have previously studied will also be able to access this student finance, based on student loans they’ve already taken out. And under the new system, returning students will be able to study at an equivalent or lower level than they previously studied – something that the current system does not allow. For example, thanks to the new rules, from 2025, someone who previously had taken out a student loan to study a history degree will now be entitled to finance for a Higher Technical Qualification in Software Development. 

The overhaul will not only empower people to learn throughout their lives and offer greater opportunities for learning, but enable workers to retrain and upskill to meet the needs of the cutting-edge industries and high-paid jobs of the future.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said:

“I know first-hand the benefits of lifelong learning, having retrained and upskilled numerous times in my journey from apprentice to Education Secretary.

“Lifelong learning is critical to career progression, helping to fill skills gaps and boost the economy, which is why this overhaul to our student finance system is so important.

“The Lifelong Loan Entitlement will give people flexibility to study, train and upskill throughout their working life, in recognition that careers aren’t linear. In doing so, it will facilitate a complete culture shift in the way further and higher education is viewed and who it is available to.” 

Sector Reaction to LLE

Edward Peck, Vice-Chancellor and President, Nottingham Trent University said:

“The Lifelong Loan Entitlement will transform the way in which every adult in England can engage with higher education, including those who have never done so before. It will redefine what it means to say you have been to university.

“This will benefit individuals, employers, and society as people enhance their skills and productivity by studying courses in flexible ways that fit both their ambitions and their circumstances. Universities now need to rise to the opportunity by delivering programmes that enable leaners to make the most of this bold and innovative approach to funding fees and maintenance.”

Vivienne Stern MBE, Chief Executive, Universities UK said:

“A more flexible approach to higher education funding is right for learners, right for employers and right for providers. Universities UK welcomes the direction of travel set out today and will be examining the detail over the coming days.

“The removal of ELQ requirements and the expansion of part-time maintenance support should be celebrated and will help new and returning people access the courses they need to thrive. If we get the communication out to learners right and keep the burden on providers low, then the Lifelong Loan Entitlement has the potential to be truly transformative.”

Jane Hickie, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said:

“AELP warmly welcomes the Department for Education’s response to the Lifelong Loan Entitlement consultation. The measures set out in the response really do have the potential to revolutionise the way in which adults access skills provision throughout their lives.

“In particular, the development of lifelong learning accounts will help empower much greater choice for adults deciding how and where to undertake their future training needs. We are also pleased to see the introduction of maintenance support covering provision at Level 4 for the first time – as this will help more adults with the costs of living while retraining. Furthermore, the relaxation of the equivalent or lower qualification rules also represents an important step forward. This will provide learners with extra flexibility that has already been successfully used in apprenticeships to enable adults to develop additional skills in a rapidly evolving, fast-paced economy.”

“We look forward to supporting these vital changes as the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Bill makes its way through parliament.”

Professor David Latchman ,Vice Chancellor of Birkbeck University of London said:

“This year Birkbeck is celebrating its 200th anniversary as a specialist provider of lifelong learning ,so we welcome the announcement of the Government’s detailed LLE proposals which will support people to learn throughout their lives.

“The Government’s excellent proposals will for the first-time place lifelong learning at the centre of our education system as is essential to meet the changes in the skills needed in today’s world.

“We particularly welcome the abolition of the ELQ rule that currently prevents people from securing a loan to cover tuition fees for courses at a level equivalent or lower than those they hold already, even though these courses are essential for their future career development.”

Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, said:

“The Lifelong Loan Entitlement is a new further and higher education offer that has the potential to enable people at any stage of their working lives to improve their knowledge and skills and drive productivity and growth.

“At the OU, we provide a wide range of certificates, diplomas, higher technical qualifications, foundation degrees and honours degrees, as well as many short courses. We can also often count study at a college or another university towards one of our qualifications. The LLE will enable the flexibility to study more than one of these courses, at one or more institutions, over a lifetime”.

The LLE will replace the previous student finance system from the start of academic year 2025/26. 

Mark Hilton, Policy Delivery Director at BusinessLDN, said:

“The Lifelong Loan Entitlement will enable people across the country to get flexible funding to train, retrain and upskill throughout their working lives.

“We welcome the expansion in maintenance support, which will help drive social mobility and encourage more people from lower socio-economic backgrounds to take advantage of training.

“Employers across London are grappling with skills shortages even though the capital has amongst the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the country. Our recent survey showed three-quarters of firms in London are reporting open vacancies and of those two-thirds are struggling to fill them.

“While the introduction of the LLE is a step in the right direction, we need to pick up the pace given it will not come into effect until 2025 – with the full package of eligible qualifications not available until 2027. Businesses are facing a skills crisis now so urgent action is needed.”

Matthew Percival, CBI Programme Director, Skills & Inclusion, said: 

“With 9 in 10 of us needing to add new skills by 2030 as technology changes our jobs, a stronger culture of lifelong learning is more important than ever. The Lifelong Loan Entitlement has the potential to be a key part of this transformation. The ability to study modules rather than only full qualifications, and the removal of outdated rules that prevented retraining, are positive steps forward.” 

In the consultation response published today the government confirmed: 

  • People up to age 60 will be entitled to the LLE, equivalent to £37,000 in today’s fees, including returning students who will have access to any remaining funding once previous student loans are taken into account. For instance, this means that people who studied a three-year degree will still be entitled to one year’s worth of funding, which could be used to fund another short course or module. 
  • To encourage as many people as possible to retrain or return to study later in life, the “Equivalent or Lower Qualification (ELQ) exception rule” will also be removed. Previously, people could not return to study at an equivalent or lower level of qualification than they had already received. Under the new system, anyone wishing to retrain or study at an equivalent or lower level will have finance available to do so. As technological advancement ushers in a new era of work, the LLE will ensure changing paths is as easy as possible, or support people to upskill in their current career.
  • To put technical study on a par with academic routes, maintenance support will be expanded to be offered across all eligible technical and part-time courses the LLE will fund, and offered for new modules of courses too. 
  • To make student finance as simple as possible, and to increase the number of options available to people, Higher Technical Qualifications will also be funded through the new system. These are technical qualifications at level 4 and 5 (between A level and degree level) which provide essential skills needed for careers from software engineer, to nursing, to data analyst. Under the LLE personal account, HTQs will sit side by side with academic routes, transforming the way these qualifications are viewed. 
  • The LLE will provide funding for new modules of courses, which will be introduced in stages: first for Higher Technical Qualifications and some technical level 4 and 5 qualifications from launch in 2025, before expanding to further level 4, 5 and 6 qualifications from 2027. Modules must be part of a full course so they can be stacked towards full qualifications if people wish, with studying picked up and put down throughout people’s working lives as it suits them. 
  • Students who have completed modules will receive a standardised transcript, in order to facilitate the transfer of credits.

To prepare for 2025, and to help more people access Higher Technical Qualifications or Higher Technical education, the government has made £20 million available to support around 80 colleges and universities across England. The funding will be used to support providers to deliver courses in areas such as digital, health & science and engineering and will ensure more people can access the right training to support them into work.  

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