Why are thorough learner eligibility checks important on AEB-funded courses?


There are multiple criteria to meet in order to be eligible for Adult Education Budget (AEB) funding. As a training provider, you are responsible for ensuring that any learners enrolled on your AEB funded course are eligible.

In this article, we’ll explain why learner eligibility checks are so important, and clarify the requirements for AEB-funded course eligibility in detail.

Who is eligible for AEB funding from the ESFA?

AEB funding can only be claimed for learners who are eligible, the onus is on the training provider to check the eligibility of all learners at the start of each programme.

There are four legal entitlements to full AEB funding:

  • English and maths up to and including level two for learners aged 19 years old and over, who haven’t previously attained a GCSE at grade four (C) or higher
  • First full qualification at level two (learners aged 19-23)
  • First full qualification at level three (learners aged 19-23)
  • Essential digital skills qualification up to and including level one for learners aged 19 years old and over

If a learner meets any of the above entitlement criteria, you should not charge them course fees. Eligible learners must be enrolled on Department for Education (DfE) approved qualifications – you can find a full list of these on the government website.

Other eligibility criteria

The two other key areas of eligibility to consider are residency and age. Learners must meet at least one of the criteria from each section in order to qualify for AEB funds.

Residency requirements

In order to be eligible for and receive AEB funding from the ESFA, learners must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Be a resident in areas of England that are outside of the ‘devolved authority areas’ undertaking AEB provision
  • Be a continuing AEB-funded learner who is resident in a devolved authority area but who started their learning prior to that authority’s devolution date
  • Be a resident in England (including devolved authority areas) completing a 19-24 traineeship programme

With regards to learner residency and the devolution of adult education functions, the ESFA now places an emphasis on residence in England when determining eligibility. The guidelines state that permanent residency in England (not a temporary address) is required prior to enrolment on an AEB-funded course.

You can find more information regarding residency eligibility on the government’s website, in the ESFA’s guide to funding and performance management.

Age requirements

There are also specific age-related criteria that must be met by learners in order to be eligible for ESFA funding. Learners must meet one of the following criteria on the first day of learning:

  • Must be aged 19+ on 31st August within the 2022-2023 funding year
  • Start a 16-18 traineeship on or after 1st August of the funding year in which they have their 16th birthday and before the funding year in which they turn 19 years old

The age of the learner on the 31st August in the funding year will determine their funding stream.

For individuals aged 19 and over, the learner will be funded through the AEB funding methodology. For individuals aged 16-19 or aged 19-24 with an education health and care plan, the 16-19 funding methodology will apply.

Read more: How to achieve ESFA compliance for 16 to 19 and AEB funding streams

Starting a course and receiving continued funding

Another reason why learner eligibility checks are so important is that the ESFA has rules around how long funding lasts and for whom. There are also time restrictions in terms of how long the learner takes to complete their study, which may affect eligibility.

Any learner who is eligible for AEB funds at the start of their programme will be eligible for its entirety. However, should they choose to start any further learning, you’ll have to reassess their eligibility in order to receive the funding again.

If a learner starts a programme without being eligible, the ESFA won’t fund them for the entire time they remain ineligible. During the audit process, the ESFA will require evidence that eligibility was checked prior to the start of learning. You also can’t fund a learner who doesn’t complete their study in the time they have available, and any evidence collected after the course has finished would likely result in clawback of funding.

Who isn’t eligible for AEB funding from the EFSA?

It’s important to understand which areas of learning are not covered by AEB funding. According to the full list on the gov.uk website, the ESFA will not fund the following:

  • Any qualification not listed on the DfE-approved list
  • Any learner who is currently in custody
  • Any end-point assessment outside of normal apprenticeship standards
  • Any duplicate learning, eg. where a learner has received the same provision from another source
  • Any apprenticeship training which replicates learning aims, takes place during working hours or offers career-related training which conflicts with the apprenticeships aims
  • Any previously achieved qualification unless for a GCSE where the learner hasn’t achieved a grade four (C) or higher
  • Any resits where no extra learning takes place
  • Any learning breaks the learner may take during the course of studying

Note that the ESFA will also not fund any UK resident on a Tier 4 visa, or anyone who is here on holiday or unlawfully.

When completing your initial assessment of AEB eligibility, make sure your learners don’t fit any of these criteria if you want to receive funding from the ESFA.

Why do you need to complete thorough eligibility checks?

The most obvious answer is that if you don’t complete thorough checks, your learners may not be eligible for funding and thus won’t receive it from the ESFA.

You must also complete a new assessment if your learner finishes one learning aim or programme and starts another. Neverassume that they are still eligible – make sure you check that they still meet all the required criteria before applying for AEB funding for the next course.

How can Bud help?

Bud’s joined-up system is designed to improve efficiency and give you peace of mind that you’re fully compliant. Eligibility is one of the main purposes of the AEB evidence pack, and will be what stands between you and any funding. With Bud, you can go into your next ESFA audit confident that your evidence matches your funding claim.

If you’re unsure about learner eligibility checks for AEB funded courses and want to learn more about how Bud can support you, get in touch with one of our experts today.