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.
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.
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.
This HEPI Policy Note has been kindly sponsored by The Open University.
Notes for Editors
- HEPI was established in 2002 to influence the higher education debate with evidence. It is UK-wide, independent and non-partisan, and it is funded by organisations and higher education institutions that wish to support vibrant policy discussions as well as through events.
- On 24 February 2022, the Government opened a consultation on the Lifelong Loan Entitlement. This can be found here. The consultation closed on the 6 May 2022, and the Government published its consultation response on the 7 March 2023. This can be found here.
- Other recent HEPI output on the LLE includes:
- ‘The Lifelong Loan Entitlement: a new way to meet demand for alternative modes of higher education’ (HEPI blog) 6 March 2023, by Professor Edward Peck CBE, Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University.
- ‘For the Lifelong Loan Entitlement to deliver on its promise, maybe we need some new ideas’ (HEPI blog) 5 March 2022 by Annie Bell, Head of External Affairs and Communications, University Alliance.
- On Tuesday, 16 May 2023, HEPI – in conjunction with Universities UK International and Kaplan International Pathways – will be launching new economic modelling from London Economics on the economic contribution of international students to the UK. For more details, including how to book a free place, see here.
Slow, but useful progress, is being made and a clearer picture is emerging of what the LLE will look like when it is finished.
Rose Stephenson’s contribution is extremely helpful and her suggestions and requests do need to be answered for the full potential of the LLE initiative to be achieved.
The unit size of 30 is too big to be consumed in 12 months for many people and needs to be reduced. This should also reduce the amount of the minimum loan to under £2,000.
I am still concerned about affordability and the lack of detail concerning the term of the loan repayments, (will it be 4 years ?) the interest rate on the loans ( will it be fixed or variable , linked to an Index?) and actions that might need to be taken to ensure recovery of the loan in cases of default.