Background to the ULN

The Unique Learner Number and the HEDIIP ULN project

The Unique Learner Number (ULN) is a 10 digit standard person identifier administered by the Learning Records Service (LRS). It is mandatory for state funded FE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and for state funded schools in England and Wales. It is being mandated in state funded schools in Northern Ireland in September 2015. The ULN is not mandatory in independent schools, has not been adopted in Scotland and is not currently allocated to non-UK learners.

The Unique Learner Number is the key to the Personal Learning Record (PLR) which is a record of an individuals educational achievement. The Personal Learning Record is accessed by a student through creating a Lifelong Learning Account with the National Careers Service. Schools and FE Providers access PLRs either through the Learning Record Service portal or through establishing an interface with the LRS.

Currently only a limited proportion of ULNs are flowing through into Higher Education and Higher Education achievement is not included on the Personal Learning Record.

ULN Current

In 2013 HEDIIP undertook a piece of work commissioned by the Regulatory Partnership Group to consider whether the time was right to plan the rollout of the ULN in HE and look at the practical steps that would need to be taken in order for such an implementation to deliver the desired benefits. The report from this project is available here.

Building on the recommendations made in this report HEDIIP initiated a project in July 2014 to develop a blueprint for the adoption of the ULN in HE. The objectives of the project were to:

  • Define a blueprint that articulates what a fully realised HE adoption of the ULN and PLR would look like; that is supported by the key stakeholders and meets specified design principles.
  • Understand the barriers to adoption, identify how they can be overcome and consider how the cost of adoption can be minimised.
  • Further develop the benefits case that justified ULN adoption.
  • Prepare the HE information landscape for adoption of the ULN by raising awareness and gaining commitment to its use.
  • Identify implementation organisations, develop a coordinated adoption strategy and monitor its implementation.
  • Understand and resolve the data protection issues that would need to be addressed to facilitate improved data sharing.
  • Develop a benefits management process that will lead to the realisation of sustainable benefits.

Some of these objectives continue into implementation.