Lifelong Learning Entitlement

By Joshua Mitchell, EPC Data Fellow

What is the Lifelong Learning Entitlement

The Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE) is a scheme designed to change access to and the whole overarching purpose of post-18 study. The most important aspects that the LLE scheme will introduce are the increased access to post-18 funding, up to four years, for individuals up to the age of 60, introducing greater flexibility within the system. Secondly, the ability to study modules from different universities, allowing for students to study wherever is deemed most accessible for themselves. This includes the extensive redesign of the post-18 student loan offer. These reforms were proposed following an independent panel in 2019 which was led by Sir Phillip Augar, regarding the reform necessary to ensure that post-18 education was on an equivalent footing to comparative countries, specifically within Europe. The LLE has extensive government backing and has become a key flagship proposal for combatting the crisis within the dramatically decreasing skilled UK workforce.

Why is the Lifelong Learning Entitlement Important in a UK context

The LLE, in principle, would be a crucial asset for bridging the skills gap which has become particularly prominent within the UK economy over the past 20 years, widening significantly following the Covid-19 crisis. The engineering skills gap is well documented. The increased flexibility that an LLE style system would create will allow for people from all ages to access a higher education with the necessary personal adjustments that are required with the context of a modern style of living. Furthermore, by streamlining the system for student finance, alongside opening up the access to adults aged 60, it increases the number of British adults that can re-train, a key aspect of the UK government’s levelling up programme. As the UK aims to become competitive again, increasing the funding to include integrated masters programmes would allow UK students to have an additional level of qualifications in comparison to students from other countries.

Challenges of the Lifelong Learning Entitlement

Some of the key factors that will remain a challenge if the LLE is implemented in the currently proposed format:

  • The LLE, under the current format, is not really intended to reform currently available courses, which would place many pre-established engineer degrees on a ‘back-footing’.
  • As stated by our Chief Executive, Johnny Rich, there will be limited attraction in this scheme under the current tumultuous economic environment, as it is undesirable for UK adults to burden themselves with greater levels of personal debt.
  • Greater clarity is necessary to understand how the flexibility aspect of the LLE, a key cornerstone, will be implemented to effectively facilitate UK adults to continue working while studying.
  • The credit transfer system within the scheme has significant problems, how are the modules standardised for transfer between universities? Who is setting this standardised system? Do providers have a requirement to accept students regardless of who their previous provider was?

How should the EPC approach the Lifelong Learning Entitlement?

With the recent announcement of the IfATE Lifelong Learning Entitlement Consultation, which has a closing date of the 1st of April, the following comments represent initial thoughts following the EPC’s Shifting Landscapes into HE webinar in November:

  • Demand for (and the possible impact of) LLE-style provision has not been well researched. We do not have any evidence of risks or opportunities to engineering as a result of funding at a modular level. Is there demand for level 4 and 5 qualifications in engineering? Is a modular approach at these levels is likely to be regarded as part an ongoing journey to level 6 and 7?
  • There is no evidence that the LLE will incentivise more people to study engineering at levels 4 to 6, including those who would not have otherwise studied because of the barriers they face in the current system. An increase in the number of modular students may not follow.
  • An increase in part-time provision in engineering could be witnessed, but there is little evidence of demand for this in the current market.
  • Rapid growth in L4/5 would be desirable in engineering but there is not currently evidence of demand (see apprenticeships) or supply.
  • What about turning existing courses into stand-alone modules? If every module belongs to a parent qualification, how will those pursuing those qualifications be disaggregated from those pursuing a non-linear route? What about integrated masters. What will be the parent qualification?
  • To comply with international standards, full-time accredited degree courses are unlikely to be broken up into stand-alone full-time modules, or to facilitate cross-provider attendance. In engineering there is existing mapping of learning outcomes across levels 4-6 (and beyond). But academics will need to assess the suitability of each course and take steps to convert it to work as a smaller stand-alone unit of learning. However,
  • Engineering could potentially benefit from subject changeability through the adoption of try-before-you buy engineering modules at levels 4 and 5 as alternative routes to level 6 which would serve to introduce the subject which is largely not taught in schools. This could include study across more than one provider but mobility (of the part-time and mature students this is likely to appeal to) is likely to be seriously limited in most city and all rural areas.
  • The government needs to provide clarity around is the ability to transfer modules between providers, little has been discussed regarding the establishment of this system and there is a risk that it will fall between silos of responsibility placing extensive burden on the HE sector.
  • Should there be more provision for private businesses to partner with the government or higher education providers to sponsor, specifically post-21 aged students, as this would increase the likelihood of an increased uptake.

If you have questions or comments in regard to this scheme, please post below, or contact us.

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