UALL welcomes the concrete measures that support university lifelong learning in the Autumn Spending Review:
· from 2018-19 part-time students will be eligible for maintenance loans to support the cost of living while studying;
· the new scheme for postgraduate loans will be available to learners under 60 years of age (not 30 as in the initial proposals);
· eligibility for undergraduate tuition loans will be extended to those who already have equivalent level qualifications where their further study is in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) subject.
These proposals create a level playing field, for the first time, in the financial support for full and part-time undergraduates and provide a model for financing postgraduate study – both helpful initiatives from our perspective in lifelong learning. It is also good to see the Government’s commitment to protecting the adult FE budget (a vital support for those with ambitions to progress to higher education).
Some issues remain. It is disappointing that undergraduate student loans will continue to be unavailable to adults who would benefit from shorter courses of higher education and that financial support for those with equivalent level qualifications is restricted by subject. There are also continuing challenges with student loans. We know that there is a great deal of misinformation about eligibility and that many adults, especially from households where income is low, are reluctant to borrow so heavily. A national information campaign, prompted by the initiatives in the Spending Review, would certainly go a long way to addressing the first of these concerns and may even with the second.