From education to employment

Sector Reaction to the Lifelong Learning Bill (LLE)

The Lifelong Learning (HE Fee Limits) Bill was introduced today (Wednesday, 1st Feb).

The Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Bill has been introduced in parliament, which will allow for the Government’s Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) to be rolled out from 2025. But what does this mean for you? Here we explain:

What is the Lifelong Loan Entitlement?

The LLE is part of the Government’s reforms to post-18 education and training, which aim to support more people to access high-quality courses that meet the skills needs of employers, and that will get them into good jobs.

From 2025, the LLE will offer people a loan worth £37,000 in today’s tuition fees, which can be used flexibly over their working lives to pay for short courses, modules or full courses, whether at college or at university.

How will this support students?

This will create more flexibility for people to decide when they want to study, throughout their career, helping them to upskill and progress.

How does the Bill support the LLE?

The Bill will mean that from 2025, universities and colleges will be required to use a new method for calculating the maximum level of tuition fees they can charge for different courses. It will make the pricing of modules and short courses proportionate, so all students can access these courses at a fair price and encouraging more people to study more flexible in a way that works for them.

The Bill will:

  • Introduce a new method to limit the fee a college or university can charge for a course or module based on credits. This means the amount a student can be charged is proportionate, whether the student takes up a short course, a module or a traditional full course.
  • Enable the Secretary of State for Education to set maximum chargeable credits per course year, so that students are not being unfairly charged for their course.
  • Introduce the concept of ‘course year’ as opposed to an ‘academic year’ to allow fee limits to apply with greater precision according to when the course actually starts. This will support more flexible patterns of study.

Following the introduction of the Bill, it will progress through Parliament before being made into law.

The Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) is proposed to make it possible for individuals to take out loans on a more flexible basis which the Government hopes will help them retrain and upskill as circumstances require. The 2019 Post-18 Review said the current system encourages too many people to concentrate their higher education at a young age and on a full-time basis, and that student loans should be available for shorter courses, in a way that encourages more flexible study. DfE’s Lifelong Learning Bill looks set to take forward this plan by making it possible for DfE to set fee limits for modules as well as for full courses.

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

“This Bill will be transformational in helping students to climb the education and skills ladder and get the qualifications they need.”

“The Lifelong Learning (HE Fee Limits) Bill being introduced today is another step towards this goal. It will ensure short and modular courses are priced proportionately, allowing students to learn in a flexible way and upskill throughout their working life.”

Through the LLE, students will get up to £37k loan over 4 years, in order to access the education and skills they need

Rob Halfon the Skills Minister continues: “Through the LLE, students will get up to £37k loan over 4 years, in order to access the education and skills they need. Rather than having to be confined to just traditional full degree courses, it will also be offered for new modular funding, and allow them to build up credits to get both the qualification and training they need for jobs”.

“The Bill paves the way for our Lifelong Loan Entitlement to be rolled out, which will transform the way funding for post-18 education is offered, giving students access to a loan to be used over their working lives for a wide range high-quality courses from degrees to Diplomas.”

Sector Reaction:

Dr Arti Saraswat, AoC HE Senior Policy Manager, said:

“This is an important first step in making student finance more flexible which is something AoC has campaigned for. 

“Implementing this by 2025 will be challenging and will depend on publishing a detailed rule book, putting the correct systems in place and, most importantly, ensuring programmes are ready so that students can enrol on courses on a more modular basis. Ensuring the scheme has been tested through a thorough pilot process will be vital to building trust in the new system. 

“There is still work needed to explain who will be eligible for the Lifelong Learning Entitlement, where they will be able to use it and how those institutions will be regulated. Colleges already have a track record of teaching HE on a more part-time, flexible and individualized basis to adult learners but this activity has diminished in recent years creating a genuine challenge in rebuilding capacity, at a time when the UK needs higher skills to boost productivity and grow the economy.

“There are wider challenges involved in reinvigorating adult higher education. The LLE and credit-based student loans are important technical fixes but are not enough on their own. Access to maintenance support is essential to ensure students can afford to study on a flexible basis.”

Professor Tom Bewick, Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) said:

“Following the landmark Skills and Post-16 Education Act, I’m delighted to see this Bill enter the legislative process. The LLE Bill has the potential to be the most radical entitlement to adult education, skills training and retraining (delivered at the point of need), ever introduced. That’s because it breaks with over a century of tradition of the state only really supporting the education of young people, delivered in a linear way. This Bill can help make the learning system genuinely cradle to grave, with individuals able to access the financial support they need, when it is most relevant to them.

“It will take a cross-party consensus to realise the full potential of the legislation, including acceptance that learning loans are not right for everyone. Grants and maintenance support will also be required. As will reform of the Universal Credit system”

“In framing the LLE, government will need to ensure the post-compulsory qualifications system can create reliable and valid modular qualifications, including credit-based assessment systems and micro-credentials. FAB’s members have a wealth of experience and expertise in supporting lifelong learning, so we will be following the passage of the Bill with close interest as well as play our full part in making the Bill a fit-for-purpose law.”

Michael Lemin, Head of Policy at NCFE, said:

“Now the Skills and Further Education Act is in place it’s good to see the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) finally enter the official parliamentary process for debate and enactment. The LLE is another tool which we hope will support the skills development of many individuals over their careers and help them reach their personal and professional potential.

“The ability to access modular learning will also support those whose personal circumstances don’t allow them to study full time. It will be vital to support learners to take up this new entitlement with additional access to maintenance and reforms to Universal Credit eligibility, as currently many people face losing their benefits when undertaking learning.

“The proposed LLE will support learning at Level 4 and 5. However, the omission of Level 3 is a missed opportunity to break down barriers between FE and HE. There are significant skills gaps in occupations at Level 3 and those needing to learn at this level will not be able to enjoy the flexibilities it offers.”

Comment from Kirstie Donnelly, CEO at City & Guilds:

“Like the majority of sector leaders, we are supportive of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) and as more details are released, it’s promising to see that it provides some green shoots to allow us to build a culture of lifelong learning in the UK, and meet employers’ skills and productivity needs. However, the LLE is missing three essential ‘must haves’ that should be included into its final design for it to be classed as truly radical and transformational.

“First, we need to broaden the availability across more skills levels. We would encourage policymakers to move away from a fixation on level 4 and above, given that all the data and evidence suggests that vast majority of skills required for key jobs are below level 4. This should also be linked to broader consideration of maintenance support for adult learners at all levels.

“Second, we’d like to see greater flexibility in the types of courses that can be funded through the LLE. So, in addition to larger stackable credits – achieved through a disaggregation of existing degree courses – the LLE should also put value in smaller, even standalone recognised credits and short courses and modules. These should include short courses linked to specific job roles/skills needs that truly respond to local and national industry changes, for example.

“Third, this new intervention should ensure that technology and flexibility are baked into learning delivery. We’d like to see the LLE enable greater choice and breadth of skills provision alongside HE/FE/IoTs, and recognise a broader range of accredited provision – including online, blended and face to face. Let’s not lose some of that innovative spirit that we gained during the pandemic, and let’s remember the importance of questioning and redefining the what, when, pace and place of how people want to access learning and training.

“Finally, if we could have one more request, I would ask: why are we stopping at 60 years of age? With the retirement age creeping up and especially as we hear the Government give a rallying call for more people to come back out of retirement or continue to work beyond 55 +, it only makes sense for a Lifelong Loan Entitlement to allow those 60 and over to contribute to the skills demands and productivity needs we have, and will continue to have, for decades to come.

“Overall, it’s a positive start but let’s not pretend it is job done. We’re only at the beginning of this journey and there’s so much more to do to truly build a culture of lifelong learning.”

Related Articles