The Department for Education (DfE) has asked us to launch a Challenge Competition to trial higher education short courses. This is a key part of the government’s approach to delivering the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE).
Lifelong Loan Entitlement and flexible skills
In September 2020, the government announced the introduction of a LLE. The LLE will be introduced from 2025, providing individuals with a loan entitlement to the equivalent of four years of post-18 education to use over their lifetime.
It will be available for both modules and full years of study at higher technical and degree levels (Levels 4-6), regardless of whether they are provided in colleges or universities.
Under this flexible skills system, people can build up learning over their lifetime and choose how and when they study to acquire new skills.
Ahead of LLE delivery from 2025, the OfS will launch a Challenge Competition in August 2021 which will distribute funding for the development of new short courses at Levels 4-6.
This is an innovative opportunity which will enable providers to offer prospective students greater choice in how they study with more flexible options to develop their skills.
The trial is part of the government’s piloting of access to a new student finance product especially designed for learners studying shorter, flexible provision in support of the development of the LLE.
The government is keen to gather learning from students, providers and employers during the development of the LLE, including reflecting on providers' experiences of adapting and developing flexible and modular courses like the ones proposed as part of this trial.
The trial will test the interest of both students and employers in shorter provision aimed at developing skills needed by employers and the economy. It will also allow the OfS to understand and test whether the current regulatory system works for this type of provision and whether we would need to adapt our approaches.
Responding to skills gaps
The government’s Skills for Jobs white paper, published in January 2021, and Build Back Better paper, published in March 2021, set out its support for lifelong learning and its ambitions to support economic growth by addressing skills gaps through technical education routes, particularly at Levels 4 and 5.
Currently, only 4 per cent of young people achieve a higher technical qualification by the age of 25, compared to 33 per cent who get a degree or above. Across a range of sectors, there is growing employer demand for the skills that higher technical education provides.
Evidence suggests that barriers to accessing higher and technical education include inflexibility of course delivery for adult learners and the availability of student finance for short course provision.
The government states that the new LLE is intended to support increased access to high-quality technical qualifications and bring greater parity between technical and academic education but in a way that allows people to build up learning and skills over time in a way that suits them.
If you have any questions regarding the pilot or funding competition, please email [email protected].