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This table outlines how the various types of providers are monitored against the regulatory building blocks. Some providers need to meet requirements in more than one column. A HEFCE-funded higher education institution (HEI) may also offer initial teacher training, for example, and so will need to meet the requirements of both HEFCE and the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL).

Monitoring for:HEFCE-funded HEIsHEFCE-funded FECsProviders with specific course designationProviders with renewable degree awarding powers and without HEFCE fundingInitial teacher training providers
Academic quality and standards Annual provider review Annual provider review HE review (alternative providers) by QAA Degree awarding powers are renewable every six years after satisfactory review by QAA OFSTED
Financial sustainability, governance and management HEFCE annual accountability process SFA monitoring Annual redesignation by HEFCE on behalf of DfE No requirements under regulatory framework NCTL
Access and participation OFFA access agreements if fees above £6000 a year OFFA access agreements if fees above £6000 a year No requirements under regulatory framework No requirements under regulatory framework Providers may not charge in excess of £9000 per year
Student complaints and redress Membership of OIA required Membership of OIA required Membership of OIA required Membership of OIA required Membership of OIA required
Information provision

HESES

NSS data

KIS data

HESA data, including DLHE

HEIFES

ILR data

HEAPES

HESA AP data  

Providers with student number control from 2016-17: KIS and NSS data

No requirements under regulatory framework NCTL

HEFCE-funded HEIs

HEFCE funds over 130 HEIs and reviews their academic quality and standards through Annual Provider Review. Some providers have been designated as eligible to receive HEFCE funding but have merged with other institutions or have changed their funding models and now receive their funding in partnership with another provider (Homerton College, Leeds College of Music, and the Northern School of Contemporary Dance).

HEFCE operates an accountability framework, which involves an annual review of financial sustainability and formal system of risk assessment.  The assessment designates the provider as either ‘at higher risk’ or ‘not at higher risk’. These risk assessments are treated as commercially confidential. When significant risk is identified, HEFCE and other bodies increase their engagement and support. Where the public and student interest is at serious risk – for example, in the event of an imminent corporate failure – HEFCE may make its risk assessment public.

HEFCE-funded institutions must have an access agreement, if they wish to charge an annual tuition fee higher than £6000. They must be members of the OIA and must provide data and information required by HEFCE and the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). HEFCE collects data to inform funding allocations, such as the Higher Education Students Early Statistics (HESES) survey. It also collects information to help students make choices, such as the National Student Survey and the Key Information Sets, available on Unistats.

There are seven universities that do not receive a direct grant from HEFCE (Arden University, BPP University, University of Buckingham, ifs University College, Regents University, University College of Estate Management and University of Law).

The regulatory framework places few requirements on these providers, except that they should be members of the OIA.

They may voluntarily subscribe to the QAA for independent scrutiny of their academic quality and enhancement.

Further education and sixth-form colleges offering HE in receipt of HEFCE funding

Over 200 further education and sixth-form colleges receive HEFCE funding for the HE courses that they offer. (These colleges may also receive indirect funding because they have a franchise agreement with another provider.  Some colleges have both direct and indirect funding from HEFCE.)

Academic quality and standards of colleges directly funded by HEFCE are reviewed by Annual Provider Review. Their financial sustainability and governance is reviewed by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), which operates a formal system of risk assessment for further education colleges (FECs), and by the Education Funding Agency for sixth-form colleges. HEFCE is informed of any significant risk to the HE that they offer under the terms of memoranda of understanding.

Under exceptional circumstances, HEFCE may cease to provide any grant funding, and recommend to DfE that the organisation’s HE courses should no longer be eligible for student support funding.

FECs and sixth-form colleges with direct HEFCE funding must have an access agreement, if they wish to charge an annual tuition fee higher than £6,000. Colleges that are directly funded by HEFCE or delivering HE as part of a franchise are required to be a member of the OIA.

FECs and sixth-form colleges with direct HEFCE funding must provide information required by HEFCE and the Individualised Learning Record (ILR). HEFCE collects data from FECs to inform funding allocations by means of the Higher Education in Further Education: Students Survey (HEIFES). It also collects information to help students make choices, such as the National Student Survey and Key Information Sets. FECs must also provide information for the Destinations of Leavers from Higher education survey (DLHE). 

Providers with specific course designation

In 2015-16 over 110 providers had successfully applied to give students on some or all of their courses access to student support ("specific course designation").

Their academic quality and standards are reviewed by Annual Provider Review, and financial sustainability is reviewed by HEFCE during the application process for specific course designation and annually. There are no requirements under the regulatory framework on access and participation. Each provider must have a process for dealing with complaints and must subscribe to the OIA.

DfE may impose sanctions if a provider’s specifically designated courses do not continue to meet the criteria and conditions of specific course designation. In these circumstances a provider might receive an improvement notice, a freeze or cut in student numbers and possible withdrawal of designation for the course or courses in question.

Providers with specific course designation, expecting to have more than 50 students claiming student support, must provide information required by DfE and subscribe to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). HEFCE collects data through the annual Higher Education at Alternative Providers Early Statistics survey (HEAPES).

From 2016-17 these providers will supply data for the Key Information Sets and will participate in the National Student Survey. Some may already do so voluntarily.

Providers with renewable degree awarding powers and without HEFCE funding

In 2015, ten alternative providers held degree awarding powers. Three of these (the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Royal College of Nursing of the United Kingdom and the University of Buckingham) were granted these powers before 1992, and hold them indefinitely.

The other seven are reviewed every six years for the quality of their delivery of HE before the degree awarding powers can be renewed. These providers are: Arden University, Ashridge (Bonar Law Memorial) Trust, BPP University, the University College of Estate Management, ifs University College, Regent's University London, and the University of Law.

Initial Teacher Training Providers

Initial Teacher Training (ITT) providers can range from large universities to school-based provision. Providers are required to meet the requirements for their ITT provision, as set by the NCTL, as well as the requirements for their other provision.

Academic standards and quality are inspected by the Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. Financial sustainability is reviewed by the National College for Teaching and Leadership.

There are no requirements under the regulatory framework for ITT providers in connection with access and participation.  ITT providers are required to be a member of the OIA.

Information provision

Data and information are essential to operate the regulatory framework and funding for HE in England. They are used to:

  • inform the public and students in particular, so that they can make well-informed decisions about HE
  • contribute to accountability for public funds
  • enable accurate and timely payments of financial support to students (maintenance support) and higher education providers (tuition fee loan)
  • ensure accurate payments of funding allocations by organisations such as HEFCE
  • inform government policy decisions on HE
  • contribute to risk assessments
  • contribute to quality assurance
  • enable HE providers to monitor their own performance (comparative benchmarking, planning and monitoring, performance indicators, tracking student trends and quality assurance).

HESA collects much of the data and information required by Government and the regulatory organisations.  Data collected includes:

  • information on the composition of the student body, including those students studying abroad for awards to be made by the provider
  • destinations of leavers from HE (DLHE) after graduation
  • information on the composition of the workforce
  • the finance statistics return with the HE Business and Community Interaction Survey
  • the Estates Management Record
  • the Key Information Set for use on Unistats. 

HEFCE collects data to inform its funding allocation process and it runs the National Student Survey.

Data for higher education in further education colleges are collected via the SFA and the ILR.

The Student Loans Company (SLC) and UCAS hold information on some HE students: UCAS holds information on applicants to higher education that use its services, and SLC collects details about those who receive student support and the rate at which they repay their student loans after graduation. UCAS and SLC collect this information to support their respective business processes.

SLC also needs accurate data on the courses that students are attending and confirmation of their attendance, in order to release tuition fee payments to HE providers. It is the responsibility of HE providers to ensure that data provided to SLC are timely and accurate.

Many other organisations collect data and information on the HE sector. Professional, statutory and regulatory bodies collect information for a range of regulatory purposes; OIA holds significant information about complaints; and QAA has information regarding concerns and outputs of their HE reviews.

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