You need cookies enabled


You need cookies enabled


  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Data source and definition of the cohort
  • Attributes of LLN courses, course providers and students
  • Annex A Data definitions and outline of overall linking process
  • Annex B Extended and additional tables
  • Annex C List of abbreviations

Executive summary


1.   This report considers students undertaking study provided as part of a Lifelong Learning Network (LLN). We look at the profiles and characteristics of LLN students, as well as the networks themselves, to improve knowledge and understanding of learning undertaken within these arrangements. Cohorts of LLN students in 2006-07 and 2007-08 are considered.

Key points

2.   LLNs are a relatively new initiative: the first of these networks of institutions, which include higher education institutions (HEIs) and further education colleges (FECs), were established in 2005 and operational in academic year 2006-07. They were funded to 'improve the coherence, clarity and certainty of progression opportunities for vocational learners into and through higher education' (HE).

3.   Currently, data regarding individuals undertaking LLN provision are available for 2006-07 and 2007-08. Cohorts of LLN students in these two years have been examined in this report and demonstrate the development of the initiative. Expansions in student numbers; the range of subjects studied; and the types of qualifications undertaken by LLN students have all been observed between 2006-07 and 2007-08.

LLN and institution characteristics

4.   One HEI may be a partner of a number of different Lifelong Learning Networks, and this makes it hard to examine LLN students by institution and/or network. It is most common for institutions to return a total of 50 or fewer LLN students, and for LLN activity to be found in one or two subject areas.

5.   Among the 2007-08 cohort of LLN students, general colleges, specialist HEIs and FECs returned more than half of the students. In 2006-07, almost two-thirds of LLN students were registered at these types of institutions. Research-orientated universities returned around a tenth of the LLN students in 2007-08, and around one in five in 2006-07.

Qualifications on entry

6.   There are substantial differences between the attributes of LLN students and the courses they undertake, depending on whether individuals held a higher education qualification prior to entry to the LLN provision.

7.   The proportion of LLN students that held higher education (HE) level qualifications on entry was around a quarter for both cohorts examined. In both years A-level or equivalent qualifications1 were the most commonly held.

Student characteristics

8.   Among students whose qualifications on entry were below HE level, three out of five LLN students were female. One-third of such students in 2007-08 were aged between 16 and 19.

9.   Among LLN students who held HE-level qualifications on entry, three out of five were female. However, students tended to be older. In 2007-08 38 per cent of these students were aged between 20 and 29, and 85 per cent of the cohort were between 20 and 49.

10.   That male LLN students were outnumbered by their female counterparts is found to be associated with the subject area of study. Some of the subject areas most frequently studied by LLN students (such as 'Education') are found to have been studied predominantly by female students.

11.   Around 85 per cent of each of the 2007-08 cohorts were returned as being from a White ethnic background. Ten per cent of each cohort were known to come from a non-White ethnic background.

Qualification aims

12.   The most frequent qualifications being studied by LLN students in both 2006-07 and 2007-08 were foundation degrees. Among students who held qualifications on entry that were below HE level, 44 per cent studied for a foundation degree in 2007-08. First degrees were the second most common qualification aim, studied by 26 per cent of the cohort.

13.   Among those LLN students who held HE-level qualifications on entry, the most commonly studied qualification aims were also foundation degrees (29 per cent of this cohort in 2007-08) and first degrees (28 per cent).

Patterns of study

14.   Full-time study was most common among LLN students that held below HE-level qualifications on entry: in 2006-07 62 per cent of such students studied full-time and in 2007-08 58 per cent did so. Conversely, among students holding HE-level qualifications on entry, part-time study was more common: 77 per cent and 65 per cent studied part-time in 2006-07 and 2007-08 respectively.

15.   Analysis has shown that the majority of LLN students commenced study in the academic year considered. For more than half of such starters who held below HE-level qualifications on entry we found no evidence of recent study in the two academic years before they started their studies at LLNs. They had not gained a further education (FE) level qualification in that period, nor had they actively studied in FE, or indeed HE, during that time.

16.   In 2007-08, 94 per cent of students can be considered to have followed a typical progression route through their studies, in that their qualification aim in 2007-08 was at a higher level than that of their previous highest qualification held. Further, 88 per cent of students studied at a higher level in their LLN learning than in any study undertaken in the previous two academic years (regardless of whether or not this recent study was their highest qualification they held). In 2006-07 these proportions were 90 per cent and 94 per cent respectively.

Action required

17.   No action is required in response to this document.


1.   Equivalent qualifications include Scottish Highers, NVQs, GNVQs and AVCEs. BTEC National Certificates/Diplomas and Scottish Qualifications Authority equivalents are considered in a separate category. HNDs/HNCs are not included in either of these categorisations: these qualifications are HE level and are considered separately. 

Date: 1 July 2009

Ref: 2009/29

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Student data, Planning, Widening participation

Enquiries should be directed to:

Alison Brunt, tel 0117 931 7166, e-mail