Higher Education: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 29th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Fox Lord Fox Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have, if any, to encourage those who have lost work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to develop new skills through part-time higher education.

Photo of Lord Fox Lord Fox Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the benefits of providing greater financial support for learners on shorter higher education courses.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The government recognises the importance of studying part-time and the benefits that it can bring to individuals, employers and the wider economy, including the opportunities it can provide to develop new skills, which will be especially important in the recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak.

In recent years, we have made a number of changes to support part-time and mature learners. Students who started a part-time degree level course from 1 August 2018 onwards are able to access full-time equivalent maintenance loans. We have removed the “equivalent or lower qualification” restrictions, for all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) part-time degree courses. Students on these courses who already hold a degree can now access support through student loans. We have also made funding available through the teaching grant to providers to recognise the additional costs of part-time study.

Evidence shows that shorter, accelerated degree courses appeal to those who want to retrain and to enter the workplace more quickly than a traditional course would permit. Graduating one year sooner means that accelerated degree students have one less year of tuition fees and save on the living costs of the final year of standard degree study. If a student is required to attend their course for more than 30 weeks and 3 days in an academic year (which is very common for accelerated degree courses), they can apply for a means-tested Long Courses Loan in addition to the standard loan for living costs.

The Independent Panel led by Philip Augar, set up to provide input into the Review of Post 18 Education and Funding, considered different ways to support learners who want to study higher education more flexibly. The government is considering the Independent Panel’s report carefully but has not yet taken decisions with regards to the recommendations put forward. The government will conclude the review alongside the next Spending Review.

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