Lifelong learning is about the opportunity to educate or further your education later in life. The proposals to promote this are usually either that the higher education institutions should adapt their educational offerings or that the study grant should be adapted for people older up the ages.
An educational offer for lifelong learning
Those who believe that higher education institutions need to adapt their educational offerings for lifelong learning often believe that the supply of distance courses, evening courses and part-time courses need to increase because such courses are more accessible to people who are professionals. Measures to steer in that direction can be about giving the higher education institutions an extended assignment, which can be seen in the proposal for an amendment to the Higher Education Act that was recently out for consultation (Amendments to the Higher Education Act to promote academic freedom and clarify the higher education institutions' role in this life long learning). According to the proposal, the higher education institutions would be given a clearer task of promoting lifelong learning.
SFS believes that student demand should be the most important factor when controlling the scope of Swedish higher education. This applies to both the control of the total scope of higher education and the scope of individual educations. There is no point in offering courses if there is no student base. This applies to both educational programs and independent courses aimed at different groups. The state needs to take responsibility for the higher education institutions to have the opportunity to adapt their education to the students' demand. The higher education institutions, in turn, need to take into account the students' demand when they in turn start educations and dimension them. SFS's view is therefore that higher education institutions must have the opportunity to adapt their educational offerings as interest in lifelong learning increases. However, it is not desirable for this to happen through strong government control.
The higher education institutions, however, have a great deal of freedom to design their own educational offerings, and many oppose that politics should govern the higher education institutions in this area. Another type of measure to adapt the range of courses is about removing obstacles for higher education institutions to take the initiative to organize courses for lifelong learning. A common obstacle that is highlighted is that this type of course does not have the same throughput as program courses and other courses aimed at full-time students located on campus. Full-time students are simply more inclined to complete the education and write the exam, something that also has a major impact on how much compensation the higher education institutions receive from the state for arranging education. Some therefore argue that the resource allocation system needs to be adapted to encourage higher education institutions to organize courses for new target groups. An interesting example of this can be found in the Government's budget bill for 2021, where the Government proposes an investment in 3 new “lifelong learning” places that will receive full funding regardless of whether the students complete their education or not. This investment will not be followed up until 000.
Study grants for lifelong learning
Most students today are young and finance their studies mainly through study grants. People later in life often have other financial conditions, such as housing costs or a family situation that requires higher incomes. Better conditions are needed to enable lifelong learning.
SFS believes that the study grant must be designed in such a way that people's socio-economic background or family situation does not constitute an obstacle to taking part in the study grant or higher education. The study grant system must enable studies throughout life.
In order to promote lifelong learning, it is not enough to adapt the range of education, but there also needs to be financial conditions for people to educate themselves or further their education later in life. It can, for example, be about opportunities to take a study break or reduce working hours, without the loss of income thus becoming too dramatic.
A proposal in this direction is about having the employment service refer jobseekers to the regular training offer. In this way, the unemployed would find it easier to retrain or further their education, by being able to study without losing their unemployment benefit. The government has recently introduced such an option, for people who are long-term unemployed. One criticism of the proposal has been that long-term unemployed people do not necessarily belong to the right target group for higher education, and that the possibility should therefore be broadened to include people who have been unemployed for a shorter period of time. The effects will need to be evaluated a little later.
Another proposal to make it easier to finance studies later in life is to raise the age limits in the study grant. Today, it is possible to receive a study grant up to and including the year the applicant turns 56, but already at the age of 47, a limit arises on how much can be borrowed. This issue became relevant as a point in the January agreement, according to which the age limit would be raised to promote lifelong learning. This resulted in the memorandum “Better student support for the elderly” at the end of 2019. According to the proposal, the age limit for student grants would be raised to 60 years, and the phasing out of the student loan would not begin until 51 years of age. According to the memorandum, about 3 students would take advantage of the expanded opportunity for study grants. The proposal has been out for consultation, but has not been decided. In the state budget bill for 000, the government announces that it intends to return with proposals in respect of studies conducted from 2021 (OU2022, p. 16).
Other factors that enable people later in life to be able to afford an education are the housing allowance and the supplementary allowance for students who have children. Both grants are aimed at students who have a family.
Another possibility that is sometimes highlighted is that employers and employees together develop models for how employees can finance their further education. A step in this direction was taken in the form of development time, which was included in the government's budget bill for 2020 and would be introduced from October 2020. The idea was that employers and employees would agree on development time together and that those who participated in development time would receive compensation from the state. . However, the Riksdag decided to redistribute the budgeted appropriations, which is why the reform was not implemented.