STUDENT FINANCE ENCOURAGES SOCIAL MOBILITY
A new law has been passed that allows colleges and universities to charge different fees for different courses for the first time. The law transforms the current student finance system and is designed to make life-long learning affordable. Let’s take a closer look…
The Lifelong Learning Bill has become law and it will transform the student finance system.
In simple terms it will help adults to study in a way that works for them. From 2025 it will give all adults access to loans, worth up to £37,000 of tuition fees. They can use this money over their working lives to upskill or retrain. It’s called the Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE) and will fund entire full-time courses such as university degrees or higher technical qualifications (HTQs) as well as specific individual modules on courses. This means students wanting to upskill can select relevant parts of courses to bolster their skillsets.
Anyone who have already taken out a loan for a degree will be able to use the rest of their LLE to study subjects that will help them gain additional skills.
This is particularly helpful when they want to gain skills that employers are looking for as markets change and technology advances. They will be able to pick and choose from modules on degree courses or HTQs, tailoring their learning to their lifestyles.
A new £5 million scheme has been introduced that encourages universities and colleges to develop and offer individual modules.
This will help them prepare for the demand the LLE will create for this new flexible way of learning. It’s anticipated that the new scheme will see high demand for modules in digital, health and science and construction.
“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 allow people to hop on and off their educational journey throughout their lives with a single ticket, towards the destination of rewarding, skilled employment. This will plug skills gaps and give employers access to a pipeline of talent to help them grow,” explains Robert Halfon, Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education.
The new measures in the Lifelong Learning Bill allows 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, sees this as a positive step to increasing the uptake of opportunities life-long learning brings. “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,” said Philip.
Policy Advisor at Coventry University, Dr Elizabeth Norton, welcomed the new bill. “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 higher education 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 higher education funding throughout their careers.”
Vice Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, Edward Peck, agrees “From initial discussion within the Augar Review Panel in 2018 through to Royal Assent in 2023, the idea of a Lifelong Learning 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, Chief Executive of Association of Colleges, sees the new bill as a cultural game-changer. “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.”
This new bill is a real leveller that will help improve social mobility significantly. It gives people from all backgrounds the ability to tailor their education to their needs, opening up opportunities to thrive and progress at their own levels. It will help build a natural skills base improving the economy and creating further opportunities. The ability to pick and choose modules to suit abilities and employer needs during their career journey and importantly be able to finance them is uplifting.
Higher technical qualifications (HTQ)s have been put on par with degrees from this September. This means that while we wait for the LLE to be introduced, students will be able to access maintenance loans including those students studying part-time.
The new Lifelong Learning Entitlement will provide learning opportunities throughout people’s working lives, by providing the financial stability that makes education and training more accessible to people from all backgrounds.