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Changes in charity legislation mean that from today HEFCE becomes the 'principal regulator' for the 110 higher education institutions (HEIs) in England that are exempt charities. At the same time, the Charity Commission’s powers extend to apply to those HEIs, but it may only use those powers after consulting HEFCE.

HEFCE's new statutory duty requires it to do all it reasonably can to promote compliance by HEIs' trustees with their obligations under charity law. It will discharge this duty by publishing guidance, extending existing monitoring arrangements, investigating complaints about HEIs as charities, and working with other charity regulators to develop policy. HEFCE is conscious of the need to avoid over-regulating HEIs that we already believe to have sound governance arrangements in place.

To coincide with becoming principal regulator, HEFCE has agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Charity Commission to set out how they will work together.

Under other provisions of the Charities Act 2006 the autonomous colleges of the Universities of Cambridge, Durham and Oxford and most student unions today become ‘excepted’ charities, and will be expected to register with the Charity Commission. Changes to the charitable status and regulation of HEIs in Wales also came into effect today.

  • More about HEFCE's role as charity regulator