FAQs

Here are answers to some of the questions you have been asking about the cuts:

1. Will students be able to take out loans for their fees?
No, the loans will be available for courses at Level 3, which is higher than the top level of ESOL (Level 2).

2. Will colleges be able to offer free courses or cheap courses to those considered to be vulnerable learners?
Yes, but if they do, their funding rate will go down the following year as the Skills Funding Agency will consider that they don’t need the money. This will make it very difficult for colleges to offer support.

3. Will asylum seekers be eligible for ESOL?
Yes, as long as they have been in the UK for 6 months without a decision on their
application. They will, however, only be eligible for co-funded ESOL and will therefore have to pay 50% of the cost of the course. Asylum seekers are not permitted to work and so will not be in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance (JSA).

Those who receive vouchers National Asylum Support Service (NASS) instead of cash will not be able to access provision, as the vouchers cannot be spent at a college, even if they could contemplate the cost.

4. If a potential student has “no recourse to public funds” on their visa, are they eligible for ESOL?
Yes, provided they meet other eligibility criteria. “No recourse to public funds” does not (and this is not new) encompass education.

5. Are teachers allowed to encourage their students to campaign against the cuts?
Public money should not be spent on political campaigns. However, teachers may raise awareness of changes to fees for the next academic year and, within the context of citizenship and language learning, teach about democracy in the UK (including writing to and visiting MPs, signing petitions etc), writing persuasive letters, personal profiles etc.

6. Do these changes affect applicants for citizenship?
No, as before, learners applying for citizenship whose English is at E3 or below can use an ESOL qualification to evidence their progress in English, a crucial part of their citizenship application. It is likely, however, that many applicants (particularly women) will no longer be able to ESOL access classes and be unable to pay tuition fees or examination costs.

7. Are newly arrived spouses entitled to ESOL?
Eligibility has not changed for newly arrived spouses. They need to have been in the UK for one year and married to a UK national to be eligible for co-funded provision and will only be eligible for fully funded if they are also on JSA or EMA.

8. What about women whose husbands are in work?
They will be eligible for co-funded ESOL if they have been in the UK for one year. They are not and will not be eligible for free (fully funded) courses.

9. What about women whose husbands are in low paid work?
They will be eligible for co-funded ESOL if they have been in the UK for one year. They will not be eligible for free (fully funded) courses and there will be no ESOL learner support fund for them to access.

10. What about women whose husbands are in receipt of active benefits (JSA orESA)?
They will be eligible for co-funded ESOL if they have been in the UK for one year. They will not be eligible for free (fully funded) courses and there will be no ESOL learner support fund for them to access.

11. What about refugees?
They will be eligible for fully funded ESOL if they are on active benefits (JSA or ESA). Otherwise they will be co-funded and have to pay.

12. Will 16-18s also have to pay for their courses?
No, they won’t.  16-18s are funded by the Young People’s Learning Agency and not the Skills Funding Agency. Funding for 16-18 comes from the Department for Education, not the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. Additionally, the YPLA will continue to fund 16-18s at the rate of 1.4 (as adult ESOL used to be).

13. Will everyone in receipt of ESA be entitled to a free course?
No. The proper name of this benefit is Employment and Support Allowance. It is for people who struggle to work because of illness or disability. When someone applies for ESA, they enter a 13-week assessment phase. During this time, a decision is made about the person’s capability for work. If they are deemed to not be capable of work, they are put in the “Support Group” and receive a slightly higher rate of benefit. If they are deemed to be capable of some form of work, they are put in the “Work Related Activity Group”.

So when we state who the government proposes will be entitled to fee remission, it’s important to say ‘Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the Work Related Activity Group’ i.e. not everyone on ESA.