From education to employment

The Lifelong Learning Bill becomes law paving the way for a radical transformation of the student finance system

people working around table
  • Adults will have access to four years of tuition loans worth £37,000 to use flexibly on both full and part-time study and new modules of courses from 2025 
  • Universities and colleges will also be encouraged to develop individual modules, in in-demand sectors such as digital and construction, as part of a £5 million scheme.  

New measures have been enshrined in law that will transform the student finance system, allowing colleges and universities to charge different fees for different courses for the first time and opening up opportunities for adults to study in a way that works for them.

Lifelong Learning Entitlement 

The Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE) (formerly the Lifelong Loan Entitlement) will give all adults from 2025 access to loans, worth up to £37,000 in today’s fees, that they can use flexibly over their working lives to upskill or retrain. 

The LLE will mean people will be able to take out a student loan to pay for full-time courses such as university degrees or Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs), as well as for some individual modules of courses.  

People who have already taken out a loan for a degree, will also be able to use the rest of their entitlement to study subjects that will help them gain additional skills that employers are looking, making it easier for people to build up their skills over time. This includes studying individual modules of degree courses or HTQ’s to help them to do this in a way that fits round their lives and commitments. 

To prepare for the introduction of the LLE, a new £5 million scheme has been launched to encourage universities and colleges to develop and offer individual modules of HTQs in a flexible way. Under the scheme students will be offered the opportunity to study in-demand modules of HTQs, such as digital, health and science and construction, ahead of the launch of the LLE from 2025.   

Higher Technical Qualifications – that sit between A levels and T levels, and degrees – give adults the skills employers need and are available in a range of in demand subjects including Digital, Construction, and Health & Science with more coming on board over the next few years. From this September, HTQs have been put on par with degrees with students able to access maintenance loans, especially for those studying part time, helping learners fit study around work and other commitments as we move towards the flexibility envisioned by the LLE.  

Following engagement with the higher education sector, the government has decided to change the name of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement to the Lifelong Learning Entitlement, so it better reflects its core purpose of offering learning opportunities throughout people’s working lives, making education and training more accessible to people from all backgrounds. 

Sector Response:

Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon said:

“Giving people the chance to access education and training over the course of their working lives, in a way that suits them, is crucial to enabling those from all backgrounds to climb the ladder of opportunity.  

“From Higher Technical Qualification modules in cyber security to short courses in accountancy and university degrees in engineering, this new Lifelong Learning Entitlement will plug skills gaps and give employers access to a pipeline of talent to help them grow.” 

The new measures in The Lifelong Learning Act will allow universities and colleges to use a new method of calculating the maximum level of tuition fees they can charge for different courses. This will make the pricing of modules and short courses proportionate, so people can access education and training at a fair price.

Chair of the Post-18 Education and Funding Review Philip Augar said

“This legislation gives us a framework that fits our modern, fast-changing jobs market. The potential now exists for adults to transform life opportunities through Lifelong Learning and I hope universities, colleges and employers respond constructively in ensuring that this potential is fulfilled.”

Policy Advisor at Coventry University Dr Elizabeth Norton said:  

 “The Lifelong Learning Bill has not only provided the foundation for a radical overhaul of the student tuition fee loans system in England, but has also asked the entire HE sector to look carefully at how and when students decide to learn on a timeline convenient to them. Coventry University Group has prioritised and pioneered “life shaped learning” for many years, and with this bill receiving Royal Assent, legislation is reflecting the flexibility people need in accessing HE funding throughout their careers.”

Vice Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University and Student Support Champion Edward Peck said:

 “From initial discussion within the Augar Review Panel in 2018 through to Royal Assent in 2023, the idea of a Lifelong Learning Loan Entitlement has built universal support because it will make higher education available to those who could benefit throughout their adult working lives.  

“Everybody who is committed to enhanced social mobility within an ever higher skilled economy will welcome the successful passage of this Bill onto the statute book.” 

David Hughes, Association of Colleges, said:

“I am pleased to see the Lifelong Learning Bill gain Royal Assent, having given written and oral evidence as it made its way through parliament. The Lifelong Learning Entitlement has the potential to be a game-changer, and I hope that this is the beginning of a significant cultural shift in the way post-18 education and training is delivered and taken up in England.

“The need for a new lifelong learning culture and the system of funding and opportunities behind it is clear – with an ageing population, the skills needed by employers rapidly changing with technological change and the move to a net zero economy, we need every adult to have the capacity, motivation, and opportunities to carry on learning throughout their lives. The long held belief that achieving a Bachelor’s degree is the gold standard and everything else is inherently inferior needs to change to a wider appreciation of the value of learning at all levels, for all people at all stages in life.

“However, the Bill alone cannot achieve that culture shift. We now need to see more thinking and development of how LLE fits into the whole tertiary education offer, including FE and apprenticeships, and the funding needed to support this.”

 Simon Ashworth, AELP Director of Policy said:

“AELP is delighted that the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Act 2023 has received Royal Assent. Empowering learners by giving them an individual lifelong learning account is an exciting move which goes some way to putting learner choice and voice at the centre of education. However, the next steps must be to introduce modular and flexible learning for adults through a demand-led system at both levels 2 and 3.”

Emily Jones, deputy director at Learning and Work Institute said:

“The Lifelong Learning Entitlement has the potential to open access to learning for more adults, going some way to address financial barriers to learning and offering greater flexibility through modular learning. However, funding alone won’t create a culture of lifelong learning. Individuals will need proactive and high-quality careers information, advice and guidance to ensure they are aware of their options, make informed decisions and benefit from the changes. To truly be lifelong, the entitlement should be extended to provide greater support to learning at all levels.”

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