Learners can use loan to help ‘train and upskill’ throughout working lives
eople in England will be able to access a loan worth the equivalent of four years of post-18 education to help them study, train and retrain at any point during their working lives, the Government has confirmed.
The lifelong loan entitlement (LLE) will be able to be used to pay for full or part-time study for a variety of courses – from degrees to higher technical qualifications, the Department for Education (DfE) said.
It is hoped the loan – which is worth the equivalent of £37,000 in today’s tuition fees – will help people up to the age of 60 to balance training or studies alongside other commitments, such as childcare.
Students will be able to keep track of their studies and see how much funding they have left in a personal online account.
The lifelong loan entitlement will give people flexibility to study, train and upskill throughout their working life, in recognition that careers aren’t linear
In February last year, the DfE published a consultation on its plans to introduce the LLE for use on modular or full-time study in higher and further education.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has now confirmed that the loan will be available for people from the start of the 2025/26 academic year.
Ms Keegan said: “Lifelong learning is critical to career progression, helping to fill skills gaps and boost the economy, which is why this overhaul to our student finance system is so important.
“The lifelong loan entitlement will give people flexibility to study, train and upskill throughout their working life, in recognition that careers aren’t linear.
“In doing so, it will facilitate a complete culture shift in the way further and higher education is viewed and who it is available to.”
In its consultation response, the Government has also confirmed that the equivalent or lower qualification (ELQ) exception rule – which meant people previously could not return to study at an equivalent or lower level of qualification than they had already received – will be removed.
Maintenance loans will also be available for students studying more technical and part-time courses, including modules of courses for the first time.
We also need to remember that it is not just access to finance that makes studying hard for so many people – other factors like insufficient childcare and a lack of time come into play too
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “I hope that this heralds the beginning of a major cultural shift in England to change thinking about post-18 education and training.
“With people working for over 50 years amidst enormous technological and societal changes, flexible, modular learning needs to become more mainstream.”
The LLE will provide funding for new modules of courses, which will be introduced in stages: first for higher technical qualifications and some technical level 4 and 5 qualifications from launch in 2025, before expanding to further level 4, 5 and 6 qualifications from 2027.
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute think tank, said: “The LLE is good news for individuals and good news for employers as it will help open up education.”
He added: “But we also need to remember that it is not just access to finance that makes studying hard for so many people – other factors like insufficient childcare and a lack of time come into play too.
“It’s also a little frustrating that much of the package won’t come in until 2027, seven years after it was first announced – it could even end up being another government that gets the credit. But it’s all better late than never.”
Vivienne Stern, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “The removal of ELQ requirements and the expansion of part-time maintenance support should be celebrated and will help new and returning people access the courses they need to thrive.
“If we get the communication out to learners right and keep the burden on providers low, then the lifelong loan entitlement has the potential to be truly transformative.”
Labour’s shadow higher education minister Matt Western said: “The Government has finally listened to Labour and abandoned their ill-thought through equivalent or lower qualification rule.
“Yet the Government still has no plan to reverse their decade of decline in skills and adult training opportunities which has seen four million fewer adults take up learning since 2010.”