The Office for Students (OfS) regulates the higher education system in England. The Office for Students’ primary aim is to ensure that English higher education is delivering positive outcomes for students – past, present, and future. It seeks to ensure that students, from all backgrounds (particularly the most disadvantaged), can access, succeed in, and progress from higher education. The OfS formerly replaced the Higher Education Funding Council for England as the regulatory body in April 2018.
The OfS is a risk-based regulator and as such, its assessment and monitoring activities are targeted at providers who represent a higher risk to students and their outcomes. Through ongoing monitoring the OfS aims to identify organisations that are not providing the academic experience and the reliable standards students should expect. When providers seek to register with the OfS, they will be tested against its quality and standards conditions. Once registered, the OfS will continue to monitor that a provider meets those conditions. The quality and standards conditions are as follows:
Condition B1: The provider must deliver well-designed courses that provide a high quality academic experience for all students and enable a student’s achievement to be reliably assessed.
Condition B2: The provider must provide all students, from admission through to completion, with the support that they need to succeed in and benefit from higher education.
Condition B3: The provider must deliver successful outcomes for all of its students, which are recognised and valued by employers and/or enable further study.
Condition B4: The provider must ensure that qualifications awarded to students hold their value at the point of qualification and over time, in line with sector recognised standards.
Condition B5: The provider must deliver courses that meet the academic standards as they are described in the Framework for Higher Education Qualification (FHEQ) at Level 4 or higher.
A subsequent, but relevant condition relates to how academic quality and standards in relation to teaching will be measured above the baseline requirements.
Condition B6: The provider must participate in the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF).
The OfS’s regulatory framework will be fully in force from 1 August 2019. Further information about ongoing monitoring arrangements will be published by the OfS during 2018/19. In the meantime, the requirements previously set out for the transition period will apply, and there are three conditions that relate to quality and standards:
1. As part of an application for registration, a provider will need to satisfy a number of initial conditions of registration that relate to quality and standards. The outcome of the OfS’s assessment of these conditions during the registration process will also constitute the quality and standards outcome for the APR process for that provider for 2017/18. This means that the OfS will use this outcome to determine the provider’s eligibility for the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF).
2. When the current year’s data needed to construct quality and standards indicators becomes available in spring 2019, the OfS will assess a provider’s position to ensure that any changes in its performance since the registration decision can be identified. The provider may be required to take action if the OfS identifies any areas that need to be addressed.
3. Throughout the transition period the OfS will monitor the progress a provider is making to implement any action plan from previous APR cycles. In addition, if the OfS becomes aware of concerns about the integrity of standards, or the quality of the academic experience it will investigate.