The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has today (19 June 2014) launched a consultation on expanding and simplifying the loan system for further education learners.
Advanced Learning Loans were established in April 2013 and since then there have been nearly 70,000 loan applications. The government is now looking to build upon this and is inviting those working and studying within the further education sector to share their views on how the programme can be enhanced.
While people over 24 years old studying qualifications at levels 3 and 4 are currently able to apply for a loan, the consultation proposes opening up the system to include 19 to 23 year old repeat learners and those taking further level 2 qualifications who are not entitled to full grant funding. This will give these groups better access to the funding they need to participate in learning and training.
The consultation also looks to explore how the loans funding framework can be simplified and how a greater coherence between further education and higher education loans systems can be achieved.
The consultation invites views on:
- simplifying the administrative rules of the Advanced Learning Loans system
- a Sharia-compliant finance product for further education learners
- the transfer of Higher National Certificates and Diplomas from within the scope of higher education funding to Advanced Learning Loans
- whether maintenance loans should continue to be provided for Higher Nationals and equivalent courses, if transferred to the further education funding system
It is proposed that moving higher vocational qualifications to within the scope of further education funding will allow for a greater level of control in targeting finance towards high quality courses and providers in priority skill areas.
Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock said:
Through helping further education learners access the finance to support their studies, we’re enabling people to develop the vital skills that will allow them to begin a prosperous and productive career.
That’s why we are proposing to build on and develop the system so that it can benefit even more learners.
The closing date for the consultation is 21 August 2014. The department is also holding a series of workshops for providers and sector representatives and will be running learner focus groups.
Notes to Editors
The consultation will run for 9 weeks up to 21 August 2014. The government will publish its response in the autumn.
The implementation date of changes to the Advance Learning Loans is not fixed as it is dependent upon responses received to the consultation. However any changes that result will not be implemented prior to the 2016 to 2017 academic year.
Those interested in attending a workshop or being a member of a focus group should visit 24+ advanced learning loans. Those interested in being part of a focus group of learners should email firstname.lastname@example.org.