Students seen leaving the college
UK students can now utilise student loans for full-time courses for upskilling anytime in their career as per the new student finance law. Joseph Prezioso/AFP

Students in the UK are set to get a major financial relief as the Rishi Sunak government introduced a new law that seeks to change student financing.

Last week, the Department for Education (DfE) announced that the Lifelong Learning Bill has become a law which will bring about a radical transformation in the student finance system.

The new student finance law allows universities and colleges to charge different fees for different courses. This first-time move by the UK government will help adults get into a study programme of their preference.

Student loans are set to change as the Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE) scheme offers £37,000 to pay off tuition fees from 2025. UK students can use this money anytime to upskill or retrain themselves. This comes at a time when studies indicated that university degree costs are rising exponentially.

Earlier, this scheme was known as Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE). The DfE decided to change the name to Lifelong Learning Entitlement after consultation with the higher education sector as it better reflects the purpose.

The UK government seeks to lower the burden of student loans on UK students and their parents, especially when many are choosing apprenticeship over education because of the cost-of-living crisis.

With the LLE in place, students in the UK can take student loans for full-time courses like higher technical qualifications (HTQs) and university degrees. The LLE facility can also be used for individual modules of courses.

HTQs fall between A levels and T levels of qualifications. It helps individuals to gain skills that make them employable in the current job market. From this month (September) onwards HTQs will be on par with university degrees that get student loans so that people can upskill.

The new law offers hope for existing student loan holders as well, and they are allowed to use the LLE facility to study subjects and gain additional skills that will enhance their employability. Through the Lifelong Learning Bill, the government is aiming to build up the skills of people.

Universities and colleges in the UK are encouraged to offer individual modules of HTQs flexibly so that people can gain the necessary skills for employability. This will be done through a new £5 million scheme which is part of the LLE programme. It will make in-demand HTQs like health and science, digital, and construction accessible to UK students.

New Student Finance Law to reduce skill gaps and uplift people

Speaking about the matter, the Minister for Higher Education Robert Halfon said that the new law will help people from all backgrounds climb up the ladder.

Halfon termed the Lifelong Learning Act as "a single ticket" to hop on and off the educational journey for skilled employment. The Higher Education Minister thinks it will reduce skill gaps and empower businesses with an array of talent which will make them grow.

Halfon further elaborated on how the Lifelong Learning Act will revolutionise the student finance system by allowing universities and colleges to calculate the maximum level of tuition fees for different courses. UK students will be subjected to fair pricing as modules and short courses will have proportionate prices.

The Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges David Hughes welcomed the new student finance law, terming it a "potential game changer" which can bring about "a cultural shift in post-18 education" in the UK.

Hughes further explained why this measure is crucial to upskill an ageing population which needs to fit in the rapidly changing technological change in workplaces. For Britain to be a net zero economy, every adult should get the opportunity of lifelong learning, said Hughes.

The Chair of the Post-18 Education Funding Review Philip Augar said that this new law provides the framework needed for this fast-changing job market.

Coventry University Policy Advisor Dr Elizabeth Norton said that the new act puts the onus on the higher education sector to understand the time of convenience of the UK population.

Norton underlined how the Coventry University Group always championed the cause of "flexibility in accessing higher education funding".

Nottingham Trent University Vice-Chancellor Edward Peck said the bill drew widespread support because it makes higher education accessible to those who would benefit from it in their working lives.

According to Peck, anyone who wants enhanced mobility in a highly skilled economy like Britain would welcome this new law.