On 3 May 2023, the first reading of the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Bill took place in the House of Lords. The House is scheduled to consider the bill at second reading on 19 June 2023.

The bill would introduce a new method of calculating the maximum tuition fees for higher education courses in England. The new method would be based on a measurement of learning time known as ‘credits’. This would replace the current system which sees fee limits set on a per-academic-year basis. As modules and short courses do not frequently coincide with a full academic year, the credit-based method would ensure the cost of qualifications would be priced according to the amount of learning they contained. 

The government said it wanted to support learners to access education flexibly throughout their working lives. It stated its key objective with the bill is to ensure it would cost learners the same to study a qualification module-by-module as it would to study the same qualification in one go.

The bill forms part of the government’s wider plans to reform post-18 education in England. The introduction of a credit-based system proposed in the bill would support the introduction of the government’s lifelong loan entitlement (LLE) from 2025. The LLE would give people access to a loan worth £37,000 (based on current tuition fees) that could be used to enrol in short courses, modules or full courses at higher, technical and degree levels (levels 4–6). The LLE would form a key part of the government’s lifetime skills guarantee which is focused on helping people to upskill and retrain throughout their lives.

No amendments were made to the bill during its passage through the House of Commons. The bill received its second reading on 27 February 2023. It was considered in public bill committee between 21 and 23 March 2023. It had its report stage and third reading debates on 3 May 2023. Various MPs spoke in support of the bill during the debates. The Labour Party did not oppose the bill on the basis that it supported the lifelong learning principle. However, Shadow Minister for Education Matt Western questioned the extent of the delegated powers within the bill, amongst other things. Most of the debates’ discussion focused on the government’s wider LLE policy.

Stakeholders from the education sector expressed support for the bill. However, some called on the government to expand the scope of the LLE.

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