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Budget: part-time and lifelong learning review

March 16, 2016

George Osborne didn’t mention it in his speech today but the 2016 Budget indicated that a review into part-time study and lifelong learning would be conducted this year.

1.102 To promote retraining and prepare people for the future labour market, the government will review the gaps in support for lifetime learning, including for flexible and part-time study.

No further details are as yet available. It is a welcome response to the Green Paper’s failure to mention part-time and follows on the heels plans announced in the Autumn Statement to relax restrictions on access to student finance for second degrees in STEM subjects (Equivalent and Lower Qualification legislation currently bars those already holding degrees from accessing student loans where the qualification to be funded is ‘equivalent to or lower than’ those already held).

Productivity is a major concern for the latest Economic and Fiscal Outlook from the Office of Budgetary Responsibility (published today). As I wrote for wonkhe in November, this new review has the potential to make a significant contribution:

If the government were serious about productivity, they would be looking at barriers to retraining later in life, rather than obsessing about the choices ‘young people’ make at 17 and 18.

The failures of higher education and industrial policy are entwined here. A smart government would overhaul current ELQ restrictions and look how it can intervene to promote part-time study.

However, the government will need to get beyond its fixed idea that everything can be solved with more loans.


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