NIACE calls for ongoing impact assessment of FE loans

25th April 2014

The latest Government figures show that 12 months on from the introduction of 24+ advanced learning loans nearly 65,000 loan applications have been received, against an initial estimate of 85,000, indicating a potentially substantial under-spend in the budget.

In this first year of the policy, the vast majority of loan applications have been taken out to support Level 3 Diplomas (48%) and Access to HE provision (30%), while the extremely low number of applications to support advanced and higher level Apprenticeships (fewer than 0.7%) caused the Government to remove Apprenticeships from the loans system earlier in the year.

Dr Fiona Aldridge, NIACE Assistant Director, Development and Research said:

“NIACE welcomes the Government’s commitment to monitoring the take up of loans and its impact upon participation in learning, and is pleased that monthly data on loan applications continues to be published. We are, however, calling for an ongoing impact assessment of this policy to be commissioned, as we anticipate it has had a negative impact on participation in the learning and skills system.

“As well as identifying the differential impact of the introduction of loans on particular groups of learners, further analysis will also shed light on the geographical and subject pattern of what is being funded. It is important that we understand who is learning, what they’re learning, where they’re learning – and who is missing out. In particular, we would like the Government to publish data by Local Enterprise Partnership (LEPs) boundaries so that LEPs can begin to stimulate demand and action in their areas with local employers and other partners.”

Research published by BIS shortly before Easter, indicated that as early as January 2013, 7 in 10 providers believed that the introduction of loans would change the whole further education landscape. With the Minister now indicating that funding will continue to switch ‘over time to follow the learner through loans or the employer through Apprenticeships’, it is paramount that we fully understand the impact of loans on learning and learners, in order to ensure that we protect the most vulnerable adults and the most important learning across the country.”