Minister Halfon speech at the Committee of University Chairs

Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon addressed the Committee of University Chairs' Autumn Plenary

The Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP

Good morning and thank you for that introduction. The Committee of University Chairs promotes the highest standards of governance across the UK’s higher education sector. I am delighted to join you today to talk about lifelong learning, and how our reforms will open up your courses to new students like never before.

From my travels around the country, I know that education is not and cannot be for young people only. Indeed, the definition of lifelong learning, it being the continuous, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge, expertise, and skills, alludes to that fact that learning is not restricted to childhood or young adulthood but occurs throughout working life. Lifelong learning is therefore an essential part the education offer in this country. As a component of the ladder of opportunity, it contributes to education’s true purpose: to provide a route for people of all backgrounds to gain valuable skills and well-paid work.  And it has never been more relevant than to today’s workforce. With an ageing population, an ever-increasing demand for skilled professionals, big data, and automation and artificial intelligence generating what is set to be, a technological revolution of unparalleled proportions, it is apparent to all that individuals will need continuous access to education and retraining throughout their lives.

That is why the Lifelong Learning Entitlement will, truly, be transformative for both further and higher education. The entitlement will be equivalent to four years of higher education funding - £37,000 currently – and will galvanise people to train, retrain, and upskill across their working lives. This could be through a full-time degree, or individual modules, or other courses like higher technical qualifications or HTQs. HTQs are designed in collaboration with employers, so students can be confident that they will gain the skills needed to get on in their chosen career. HTQs lead to prestigious, sustainable jobs such as software developer, quantity surveyor and nursing associate – the jobs that employers are crying out for people to fill. So, from the 2025 to 2026 academic year, the LLE will be available for:

  • Full courses at level 4 to level 6, such as a degree or higher technical qualifications.
  • Modules of high-value technical courses at level 4 to level 5.

This will allow people to adapt to the ever-evolving demands of the world’s sixth-largest economy. The LLE presents solutions and offers answers to this multitude of changes and opportunities.  It only takes a spark to start a fire, and the trailblazing initiative that is the LLE will revolutionise this country’s landscape of education and opportunity and alter for the better people’s perception of possibility in adulthood.

Education is, without doubt, society’s greatest leveller. Firing the imagination, it opens new doors and ensures nobody is left behind. The Prime Minister has described education as the closest thing we have to a silver bullet: the best economic, social, and moral policy. Widening access to higher education this century has transformed our nation, but we need to do more. And so, we are. With the LLE, we are lighting a fire to forge an ambitious future and provide pathways for everyone, whether that be through education or employment, reskilling, or upskilling.  

So, the LLE will level-up access to later-life learning. It will bring FE and HE together to create a new universal student-finance system. It will enable the configuration of funding around modular, flexible provision, allowing learners to study at their own pace and in a way which suits them. It will expand maintenance support to all eligible learners and all targeted support grants are being extended to part-time courses for the first time. We will be expanding support for living costs to technical courses at levels 4-5, which remain pressing, whatever and however you study. It will remove the restrictions on students taking courses at the same or a lower level to ones they’ve already done. This will allow both new and retuning learners the freedom and the funding to upskill or retrain as best serves the next step in their careers. It will offer people regular start dates, opportunities, as they’ll be able to pick up a module at any time and move more seamlessly between institutions. And finally, it will allow learners to see their loan balance through their very own LLE personal account so they can make informed choices about the courses and learning pathways available.

This is what is unique about the LLE. This change to student finance will offer diverse educational opportunities, enabling students to learn at a pace that suits them, fitting study around work, family, and personal commitments. Because whether through full-time degrees, individual modules or higher technical qualifications, we want learners to have a real choice in life. They should not feel limited to just one path or one shot at success.

We have already made tremendous progress at pace on the LLE. Most recently, for example, and something of which I am particularly proud, the Lifelong Learning (HE Fee Limits) Bill became law in September. It has created a new system for applying fee limits, ensuring that the fee cap is calculated on the same basis, whether a learner is studying individual modules separately, or studying them together on a typical full-time course.

During the passage of the act, I committed to provide further information on fee limits so providers could prepare for the LLE’s introduction. I am pleased to announce that this information is today being published on In this, we are setting out the list of chargeable numbers of credits for every course type, as well as the number of credits that can be charged for in any single course year.

Of course, not all programmes are credit-bearing courses. Courses such as medicine, veterinary science and dentistry are exceptions, and their fee limits will be set using a default number of credits.

The publication also includes the list of course types to which this default system applies, to give providers and learners all the information they need to prepare for 2025.

It also gives me great pleasure to say that we are also setting out further detail today on learner entitlement. The LLE will be available to both new and returning learners.  Whilst new learners will be able to access the full entitlement (equivalent to 4 years full-time tuition), those returning to higher-level education will be able to access their residual tuition loan entitlement. They can use this to access any LLE course, whether a full degree, short course, or a module. This opens up the entitlement to people of many different educational backgrounds, allowing them to refresh their skills or seek brand-new qualifications.

Details of how we will calculate residual entitlement are also being published today. We will consider both the cash value of loans taken out by learners, and the modern equivalent cost for those who studied under previous funding regimes. In doing so, we have prioritised value for taxpayers, and ensure that learners who want to use the LLE to retrain or upskill can do so on an equitable basis.

The Lifelong Learning Entitlement represents a significant leap forward in providing accessible, adaptable, and inclusive education. It embodies this government’s commitment to empower individuals to furnace their own education pathways, adapt to change, and contribute to a stronger and healthier economy. Truly, I am so excited to be consistently making great strides on the LLE and its plethora of constituent parts. And I am so enthusiastic that this once-in-a-generation reform of our higher-education sector will enable people to move seamlessly between further education and higher education, taking the opportunities that best serve their career stage and fit around their commitments.

However, this can’t happen without your support. I hope that the higher-education sector will embrace the burning ambition of the LLE. It has the power to light the proverbial fire, to benefit learners, employers, and universities alike.  

For learners, the LLE will kindle a desire for personal and professional development, allowing them the opportunity to learn, reskill or upskill. For universities and colleges, the LLE will spark discourse about efficient and effective education delivery, inspiring them to think differently, more radically, and to trigger spirited and significant collaboration and co-operation between higher and further education. For employers, the LLE will ignite the talent foundry and cast a stronger and larger labour force. This will allow them to bridge skills gaps in their workforce, encouraging staff to upskill via modular learning and progress professionally in a way that is responsive to their needs.

I hope I have painted an exciting picture of the developments to come. Together with other DfE initiatives like skills bootcamps, apprenticeships, and our adult learning offer apprenticeships, the LLE forms part of our blazing desire to enhance human capability and productivity, so that every person in this country can pursue the education that they need and deliver on their full potential. I hope you see the possibilities that this landmark reform will present to the sector, and I look forward to working with you to make those possibilities a reality for universities, colleges, and students.

As we move forward, therefore, let us embrace this revolutionary reform and transformative journey together. Education should inflame curiosity and creativity. It should fuel a passion for learning and a lifelong pursuit of knowledge. Just as a fire spreads and grows, so should education spark a desire to explore and discover new things. With the LLE, we hope that lifelong learning will become the norm. Even more so, we hope students catch a spark and light a fire. We want our education system to be about those fires. So very many of them.

Thank you.

Department for Education
The Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP