The government’s announcement of the introduction of a new, more flexible system to empower adults to upskill or retrain throughout their working lives is very welcome. This will unlock opportunities for learners and to address the country’s pressing skills needs. In particular, we welcome the abolition of the ELQ rule to allow people to upskill as appropriate throughout their lives as careers and the world of work change.
London is a diverse region with a range of under-represented groups and many pockets of poverty, so the need for such a reform can be felt even more acutely in the capital. With this in mind, we would flag the necessity for the implementation of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) to be carefully thought-out for all groups, those wishing to benefit from it and those who will be part of delivering it. We would particularly like to draw attention to the need for information and advice to all parties being accessible in content and format, to ensure marginalised groups such as mature and disabled learners can fully benefit from the proposals.
The modular courses covered by the LLE must complement existing courses at the capital’s many higher education providers. They should not be viewed as a replacement to traditional tertiary education. Many higher education institutions, particularly small and specialist ones, may require additional support to deliver on the LLE, so we ask that regulation for course modules should be risk-based and proportional.
We also call for clarity on student number controls (SNCs) and minimum eligibility requirements (MERs). If the LLE is to be delivered by 2025, it is imperative that more information on SNCs and MERs is published, or confirmation given that these policies are no longer under consideration. Implementing MERs pose the particular risk of negating the primary purpose of the LLE in terms of opening up opportunities into education. In London, as in other regions, this would disproportionately affect the capital’s learners from ‘Global Majority’ backgrounds, from the most disadvantaged communities and those with special educational needs.