Providers in England often work together, and with other awarding and professional bodies. They do this in many different ways, which provide different levels of public assurance.
Where a provider only operates in a partnership, they have an indirect relationship with the framework of regulations for HE. These providers are not listed on the HEFCE register of HE providers.
Some common forms of partnership arrangement are described below.
‘Validation’ and ‘listed bodies’
Some HE providers may not have the power to award degrees, but may wish to offer a course leading to an award from a provider which does. To do this they can enter into a ‘validation arrangement’ with that provider.
A validated course is described in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education as a module or programme which a degree-awarding body approves to contribute, or lead, to one of their awards. Students on the course normally have a direct relationship with the provider delivering the course.
The Quality Code explains that in a validation relationship, the degree awarding body is ultimately responsible for the academic standards of any awards granted in its name, and for the quality of the learning programme.
Providers validated by a degree awarding body may also submit their courses for designation under the Student Support Regulations. These regulations define ‘validation’ in a more prescriptive way. They state, for instance, that any student loan fees have to be paid to the delivery provider.
HE providers that offer validated courses leading to degrees are known as ‘listed bodies’. The Government publishes a list of 'listed bodies' which it updates periodically.
Delivering a qualification awarded by another awarding body
Providers may also offer courses leading to an award issued by an awarding body that does not have degree awarding powers. Many of these UK awarding bodies are registered on the Ofqual register of awarding organisations. Registration is voluntary and not comprehensive.
Ofqual-regulated awarding bodies are responsible for the standards of the qualifications that they award at the end of a course. But they are not usually responsible for the quality of the learning and teaching.
A provider teaching a course in this way may not fall within the framework of regulations that these pages describe, unless they also qualify for public funding for HE, such as student support or HEFCE grant.
Certain qualifications offered by a non degree-awarding provider may be eligible for HE student support. These include:
- Higher National Diplomas (HNDs)
- Higher National Certificates (HNCs)
- any award which has been accredited by the National College for Teaching and Leadership as leading to an Initial Teacher Training qualification, known as Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
These two systems are not exclusive. For example, a degree-awarding university might validate an HND course, which is licensed from Edexcel, to be delivered at a further education college. Here, the university and Edexcel will make an award. Such awards often have dual branding.
Accreditation by a Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Body (PSRB)
Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) are a very diverse group of professional and employer bodies, regulators and those with statutory authority over a profession or group of professionals. PSRBs engage with HE as regulators. A full list of them can be found on the HESA web-site.
Some PSRBs act as awarding bodies. Others only accredit the awards of other organisations, such as HE providers. Accreditation can be any process of approval leading to assurance that a programme meets the standards required by a particular profession.
Franchising from another provider
A ‘franchise course’ is as a course subject to an agreement by one institution (usually a provider with degree awarding powers) that another organisation may deliver all or part of a programme approved and owned by the first institution.
The franchising institution retains overall control of the programme's content, delivery, assessment and quality assurance arrangements.
Generally, if an awarding provider is in a franchise relationship with a delivery provider, the students' relationship is with the awarding provider, and the same assurances will apply as for provision delivered by the awarding provider.
This includes fee setting, data collection, quality assurance, and dealing with complaints. If it receives student support, it must meet the government guidance.
If the awarding provider is covered by the framework for regulating HE in England which these pages describe, its franchised provision should be considered in the same way.