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What’s the deal with Guided Learning Hours?

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Vocational and technical qualifications

At Ofqual, we’re taking a look at Guided Learning Hours and we want to hear from you if you have experience of using or calculating them.

Guided Learning Hours, often known as GLH. are important because they are linked to the credit that students receive for some qualifications. Organisations providing financial support may use Guided Learning Hours to decide on funding for a qualification.

Young people who are required to take part in education or training have to do a certain number of Guided Learning Hours, adding new significance to the Guided Learning Hours value given to a qualification.

Students need to know the actual Guided Learning Hours for any course they take. They can’t include unsupervised study or preparation, or the time taken for assessments.

On the face of it Guided Learning Hours might appear simple to calculate and understand. But it’s not always clear cut. For example, some qualifications, particularly at higher levels, require significant amounts of learning that is not directly supervised by a teacher. Some qualifications require significant time to be allocated to assessments.

Should the time taken for unsupervised study and assessment also be known?

What now?

It seems clear to me that we need to take a look at Guided Learning Hours. But in order for us to make the right changes to Guided Learning Hours, I’d like to find out what you think we need to do. For instance:

  • How do you use Guided Learning Hours?
  • What is the most important aspect of them for you?
  • Do you have to report on Guided Learning Hours? If so, who to and for what purpose? (How’s the burden of this? How are you calculating or using this information?)

We welcome any thoughts you have, and you can leave them in the comment section below or by emailing the team at

We will be consulting on our proposals later this spring so the information you give us now will help to make sure we ask the right questions.

Bethany Hughes,
Regulatory Development Team

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  1. Comment by Steve Hewitt posted on

    Um, really? From August FE providers will no longer be able to record GLH in the ILR following changes to the specification explicitly asked for by the Funding Agencies. This seems like another example of two bits of Government having no idea what the other is doing... It's a ludicrous time to ask this question...

    Representations were made at the time of the funding "simplification" discussions, but apparently no one was interested in GLH any more...

    • Replies to Steve Hewitt>

      Comment by Bethany Hughes posted on

      We are working with the funding agencies and are aware of the move to funding on credit but still think there is a need for us to look at guided learning hours. Funding purposes and the ILR aren’t the only use for Guided Learning Hours. Going forward, GLH will be used to make sure that young people are undertaking enough guided learning to meet their obligations for being in education or training up to the age of 18 under the Government’s raising the participation age policy – see here.

      GLH can also help school and college managers consider how much classroom/workshop time they may need to plan for the delivery of a course/qualification and learners themselves may be interested in courses/qualifications where there is a different balance between guided and self-directed study.

      • Replies to Bethany Hughes>

        Comment by Steve Hewitt posted on

        Thanks for the reply Bethany, but all the talk from EFA that I've heard explicitly *avoids* using the word "guided" to describe how long someone has to be in college, also we're only collecting it at learner level not for individual quals. The study programme has to be greater than 280 hours, but that's not going to tell you much about what each qual is delivered in. If you're planning to get this information from a source other than the ILR then you really are in trouble, yuo'll have every provider in the country and the information authority on your back within minutes...

        Mind you, I said as soon as they took it out that GLH at qual level would be back in the ILR within 3 years and you seem to be proving me right...

        • Replies to Steve Hewitt>

          Comment by Bethany Hughes posted on

          Thanks for your comment, Steve. The use of ‘guided’ relates back to section 145 of the ASCL Act 2009. This is the definition that the government will be using for Raising the Participation Age purposes. We need to understand the different types of learning time and what is most valuable to different users. Where the evidence comes from to support the learning time (which might just be guided learning hours as defined in the ASCL Act) set by the awarding organisations is another issue, and one we will be investigating in the consultation.

  2. Comment by Alison Iredale posted on

    GLH in principle are all the things stated above, and on the face of they perfectly acceptable as a way of measuring student entitlement. However it is the reductionist way that they are used in institutions to compact curricula and tie teachers to physical spaces that causes the problem with regard to the poor outcomes achieved by a significant number of courses. Far from ensuring quality of experience and outcome they serve as a blunt surveillance tool managed by accountants. Teachers are the best people to know how many hours should be allocated, including whole group teaching, seminar, tutorial and supervised study/practice. Find a funding formula that allows professionals to thrive in a culture of education.

    • Replies to Alison Iredale>

      Comment by Bethany Hughes posted on

      We agree that teachers are the best people to know how long it takes in general to learn new knowledge or skills. We’d like, through our forthcoming consultation, to hear ideas on how best to make sure that is reflected in the guided learning hours that Awarding Organisation’s assign to their qualifications. And how they keep that under review as learning techniques and technologies evolve.

      • Replies to Bethany Hughes>

        Comment by Alison Iredale posted on

        Let me know if you want my perspective in your consultation.

        • Replies to Alison Iredale>

          Comment by Bethany Hughes posted on

          Thank you very much for your comments to the guided learning hours blog and I would certainly be very interested to hear your views. We will be launching the consultation later in spring so please keep an eye on our website for the launch date.

  3. Comment by Bob Harrison posted on

    Guided Learning Hours are restricting innovation in learning provision. They are predicated on an industrial mindset in a digital age. The sooner funding is based on learning outcomes the better.

    • Replies to Bob Harrison>

      Comment by Bethany Hughes posted on

      Thanks for your comment. Look out for the consultation which will be published on this site in April.

  4. Comment by Stewart posted on

    What is your official definition of GLH?

    • Replies to Stewart>

      Comment by Bethany Hughes posted on

      We want to consult on the definition to make sure it is fit for purpose and meets the needs of those who use it. Broadly though, the definition of GLH is the hours that a teacher, lecturer or other member of staff is available to provide support to a student working towards a qualification. Guided learning doesn't have to take place in a classroom, support can be via telephone or online as well. We want to make sure that everyone is working to the same definition and we don’t think that’s happening at the moment.

      • Replies to Bethany Hughes>

        Comment by Stewart posted on

        Its good that you want to consult on the definition of GLH but it is a useful starting point to understand what the definition is now. You say that GLH includes the hours that staff 'are available to support learners. The concept of availability is an interesting one. It would be very helpful to see the actual definition of GLH that you currently use. A reference to a document would be fine.

        • Replies to Stewart>

          Comment by Bethany Hughes posted on

          The definition for actual guided learning hours, as set out in the ASCL Act 2009, is ‘the time a person spends a) being taught or given instruction by a lecturer, tutor, supervisor or other appropriate provider of education or training, or b) otherwise participating in education or training under the immediate guidance or supervision of such a person, but does not include time spent on unsupervised preparation or study, whether at home or otherwise.’ (section 145, ASCL Act 2009). This is the definition the government will use when calculating the number of hours for a student under the Raising the Participation Age policy.

          In our Regulatory Arrangements for the QCF (Aug 2008), we define guided learning hours as ‘the number of hours of teacher-supervised or directed study time required to teach a qualification or unit of a qualification.’ Other organisations interpret guided learning hours differently and include activities like the time taken for assessments, work-based activities and educational counselling among others.

          We want to have a clear, consistent definition for our users and so we will be consulting on our proposals in late spring. Please keep an eye on our website for the launch and I hope you will have time to put forward your views.