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What is the Lifelong Learning Entitlement?

From 2025, the Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE – previously known as the Lifelong Loan Entitlement) will start to replace the two existing systems of publicly funded higher education student finance loans and Advanced Learner Loans in England. The Government believes the introduction of the LLE will deliver a “radical shift” in the tertiary education system, by unifying the student finance systems for further and higher education courses at levels 4, 5, and 6.

The LLE will provide all new learners with a tuition fee loan entitlement to the equivalent of four years of post-18 education to use up to the age of 60. This would be £37,000 in current fees. Additional entitlement will be available for priority subjects, such as medicine. A “residual entitlement” will also be available to returning eligible learners who have already received publicly funded student finance.

For all courses and modules the LLE funds, eligible learners will also be able to access maintenance loans towards their living costs, as well as targeted grants depending on their personal circumstances. Learners will have an online personal account they can access throughout their life that will display their student finance LLE ‘balance’ as well as information, guidance, and details of eligible courses the LLE will fund.

The LLE is intended to be used flexibly, for full-time or part-time study of modules (comprising of at least 30 credits, whether individual or bundled together) or full qualifications at levels 4 to 6 in colleges or universities. Through provisions in the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Act 2023, traditional degree courses, short courses, and modules will be priced consistently according to their respective amount of learning.

To increase flexibility for people using their LLE to retrain, current restrictions on receiving funding for most courses at an equivalent or lower level to a qualification a student already holds will be removed.

Background to the Lifelong Learning Entitlement

On 29 September 2020, the then-Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, gave a speech at Exeter College in which he announced a new Lifetime Skills Guarantee that would give people the opportunity to train and retrain throughout their lives.

More detail on this guarantee was included in chapter three of the Government white paper Skills for jobs: Lifelong learning for opportunity and growth, which was published in January 2021. The white paper set out reforms to post-16 technical education and training that the Government hoped would support people to develop the skills needed to get good jobs and improve national productivity.

On 24 February 2022, the Government concluded a review of post-18 education and funding. Alongside policies and proposals for consultation relating to student finance and student loan repayment terms, the Government launched a consultation on what was then referred to as the Lifelong Loan Entitlement.

The Government published its response to the consultation in March 2023, setting out how the LLE will work in practice and outlining next steps ahead of its roll-out from 2025. It also published an impact assessment, equalities analysis, and a written ministerial statement. Since then it has published a new policy paper on the LLE.


The planned removal of ELQ restrictions and the expansion of maintenance support for living costs to level 4 and 5 qualifications was welcomed by many across the education and employment sectors as an important way to ensure learners could access funding to retrain, develop their careers, and fill skills gaps in the economy.

The Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), David Hughes, welcomed the LLE as a potential “game changer”. However, he argued modular learning needs to become more mainstream, and the LLE alone would not change the behaviours and priorities of most learners focussed on achieving a traditional undergraduate degree.

The decision to cap eligibility for the LLE at age 60 has been described as an “ageist strategy”, while there have been calls for more funding to ensure learners can stay in their studies and not leave because of financial reasons and so providers can adapt courses for modular learning.


According to the impact assessment published alongside the Government’s consultation response, it is not possible to develop a fully quantified assessment of the LLE because of current uncertainty around the likely response of learners and providers, and because some policy decisions have yet to be made. The Government has said a more detailed assessment will be published when it has laid the secondary legislation needed to implement the LLE fully.

There have been questions asked about how much demand there is for lifelong learning and the principle of funding it through government-backed tuition fee loans. Polling by Public First, a public policy and data consultancy, found older workers and people outside of London would be less likely than other groups to want to take out a student loan to cover tuition fees.

In December 2021, the Office for Students and the Department for Education announced a trial to test demand for short courses and to assess what impact the availability of loan funding would have on participation. While it was intended that just over 100 courses were to be available to more than 2,000 students during the 2022-23 academic year, only 17 courses were ultimately launched because of insufficient demand. There was a total of 125 student enrolments, with just 41 taking out a new student loan to fund their course.

More information is available in the full briefing.

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