A Unique Learner Number (ULN) is a 10-digit identifier that will eventually enable any student over the age of 14 - in England, Northern Ireland and Wales - to build a lifelong record of their learning achievements.
ULNs are issued and held by MIAP's (Managing Information Across Partnerships) web-based Learner Registration Service (LRS).”
Most people don’t even know they have one. But as of a few years ago every child in the British education system will have been allocated one, and if you’ve engaged in any adult learning recently you’ll have one too.
On this national database all your education records can now be seen by anyone who has access. A fully populated Learner Record will show your literacy and numeracy levels, employment and training you have engaged in and your grades from examining bodies.
They even create one now when you apply for a passport. Although these records are badly populated at the moment (because the system is still being rolled out) a fully populated one would contain your date of birth, address, nationality and educational records.
The way the system has been designed is supposed to maintain a level of anonymity, in that you would not necessarily be able to tell where someone received their qualification. However as a caseworker in Prisons who has to use the database to update education records I can tell you that you very quickly notice the patterns.
I can also say that because the system uses postcodes (which are subject to change) as a way of identifying individuals it is far from full proof. Individuals regularly end up with more than one profile and as such can end up with partially populated records. Half of your qualifications could end up on one profile and the other half on another.
Furthermore as the administrators who use this service do not often know a clients postcode (or in my case my clients often don’t have one) a default one is used (ZZ999ZZ) instead. Therefore if you have a common name there is every chance that mistakes will be made and the wrong record could be updated.
On the face of it this may not sound like too much of a problem but as the service expands and colleges (and possibly employers in the future) rely on the information on the LRS it will be increasingly important to ensure the information is accurate. At the moment it rarely is.
At a time when so much of our information is on display somewhere do we really want this kind of detail so readily accessible?