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Higher Education: Mature Students

Question for Department for Education

UIN 99755, tabled on 6 October 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the accessibility of higher education for part-time mature students.

Answered on

14 October 2020

Many mature students need to study flexibly and we have taken a number of steps over recent years to encourage more flexible learning. These include greater support for part-time learners through maintenance support, and removing restrictions which had prevented students getting loan funding for part-time science, technology, mathematics and engineering undergraduate degrees if they were equivalent or lower qualifications.

The number of part-time students undertaking full undergraduate degrees has increased in recent years, but the numbers of part-time students overall (including those taking shorter courses) has declined. Therefore, we need to take much more radical steps to support lifelong learning. This is why my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, announced that we will introduce a flexible lifelong loan entitlement to 4 years of post-18 education, providing incentives for people to build the skills the economy needs. This will provide finance for shorter-term studies, rather than people having to study in 1, 3 or 4-year blocks. People will be able to break up their study into segments, transfer credits between colleges and universities, and take on more part-time study.

As the economy recovers from the COVID-19 outbreak, it will be even more important that individuals have opportunities to develop their skills over the course of their lifetimes. We will be consulting on the introduction of a lifelong loan entitlement in due course. This will set out proposals for how and when we will be introducing it. Where necessary, we will bring forward legislation in this Parliament.