Access to fee and maintenance loans from the Student Loan Company (SLC) is currently restricted for students wishing to study qualifications that are at an equivalent or lower level to those which they already hold. These are known as Equivalent or Lower Qualifications (ELQ). There are exemptions to these restrictions, including from 2017/18 for all part-time STEM degree courses (which had been eligible for fee support only).
Full-time STEM student numbers increased between 2003 and 2015, in some cases dramatically (notably in Biological Sciences by 87%, Maths by 78% and Physical Sciences by 77%). Across most STEM subjects, levels of sustained employment have also grown either in line with the average or above the average, and average earnings have increased by well above the 11% graduate average. Evidence suggests the last round of Government capital funding for STEM higher education has led to increases in provision.
We will be carefully monitoring the impact of lifting the ELQ exemption for part-time STEM courses in the context of our assessments of higher education STEM and demand overall.