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Organisations in the operating framework
Association of Colleges Office for Fair Access
Department for Education Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
GuildHE Student Loans Company
Higher Education Funding Council for England
UCAS
Higher Education Statistics Agency UK Visas and Immigration
National College for Teaching and Leadership Universities UK
Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education  

Association of CollegesAOC

Overview of role

The Association of Colleges (AoC) exists to represent and promote the interests of further education and sixth form colleges, and provide them with professional support services. Its aim is to be the authoritative voice of colleges (based on credible analysis, research, advocacy and consultation) and its members’ first-choice destination for guidance and advice.

Legal status

AoC is a not-for-profit organisation.

Funded by

Subscription and commercially generated revenue.

Remit

England only.

Role in regulation of higher education

AoC is not a regulator. AoC plays a role in providing guidance to further education and sixth form colleges delivering higher education. Its website provides information about changing policy in HE, and how this pertains to colleges specifically. AoC regularly advises and consults with all the agencies involved in the regulation of HE on behalf of its members to ensure that the needs of colleges are understood and the burden of regulation and performance management is proportionate to risk.


 

Department for EducationDfE logo smaller and cropped

Overview of role

The Department for Education (DfE) is a ministerial department. DfE is responsible for children’s services and education, including higher and further education policy, apprenticeships and wider skills in England. The department is also home to the Government Equalities Office. 

DfE is supported across the full range of its work by 17 agencies and public bodies.

Legal status

Ministerial department of the UK Government.

Funded by

The Treasury.

Remit

England only for higher education. UK-wide for research policy.  

Role in regulation of higher education

DfE has ultimate responsibility and accountability for higher education. It provides funding for learning and teaching, and makes a contribution to capital costs for higher education. DfE issues an annual performance resource agreement to the Student Loans Company (SLC) and an annual grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), each of which sets out policy priorities and funding for the next academic year. In addition, DfE provides a guidance letter to the Office for Fair Access (OFFA). DfE oversees the work of the SLC, HEFCE and OFFA.

The Secretary of State for Education makes decisions on eligibility for HEFCE funding. For alternative providers, DfE determines the policy, makes decisions on specific course designation for student support and sets student number controls.


 

GuildHEGuildHE

Overview of role

GuildHE is a membership organisation for heads of higher education providers and their staff. It is a formal membership body, like Universities UK and AoC, and works to make the case for institutional diversity and distinctiveness within the UK higher education sector.

Legal status

Company limited by guarantee and a charity.

Funded by

Subscription and commercially generated revenue.

Remit

UK-wide.

Role in regulation of higher education

GuildHE is not a regulator, but, like Universities UK and AoC, GuildHE has a role in ensuring institutions are effectively held accountable. It is a sponsor of the Higher Education Better Regulation Group and is regularly consulted on matters affecting regulation in the HE sector.


 

Higher Education Funding Council for England‌

Overview of role

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is a public sector body which invests to promote opportunity, choice, innovation and excellence in research, teaching and knowledge exchange. As lead regulator, HEFCE works in the student interest to monitor the financial sustainability of higher education providers and to ensure that the quality of teaching, learning and research is assessed. It advises Government and the sector on policy and practice and is an authoritative voice in the wider debate on higher education issues, encouraging and supporting the positive contribution that higher education makes to the economy and society. 

Legal status

HEFCE was set up by the Government in 1992 as a non-departmental public body, and works within a policy framework set by the Secretary of State for Education.

Governance arrangements

Board members are appointed by the Secretary of State for Education, usually for a period of three years. They are appointed on the basis of their expertise in education, or their experience in industry or the professions.

Funded by

Department for Education.

Remit

England only.

Role in regulation

HEFCE has an oversight and coordination role in the regulation of higher education in England. Its powers are derived from the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, with specific powers and obligations outlined in the Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability.

HEFCE publishes the online Register of Higher Education Providers, which is intended to be an authoritative reference point collating information for a wide range of users from overseas governments to students. 

HEFCE assesses the financial health and risks of HEFCE-funded institutions through the annual accountability returns process

HEFCE has a statutory duty to ‘secure that provision is made for assessing the quality of education provided in institutions for whose activities they provide, or are considering providing, financial support’ (Further and Higher Education Act 1992, part II, section 70). 

HEFCE plays a role in supporting fair access and successful participation. It provides funding to HEFCE-funded providers through the student opportunity allocation to support their work to widen access, improve retention and support student success and progression. It also provides funding for the provision and support for disabled students and from 2014-15 to support students in hardship. All institutions in receipt of the student opportunity allocation are required to submit data returns to HEFCE, as specified in the Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability, with higher education institutions and the funding agreement with further education colleges.

HEFCE is accountable for the funds it receives from DfE through a framework document, a set of guidelines within which HEFCE operates. HEFCE allocates funds to institutions eligible to receive its funding on the basis of the policy priorities and agreed funding methodologies.

Under the Charities Act 2010 HEFCE is the ‘principal regulator’ of those HEIs that are exempt charities.  (Some HEIs are registered charities and are regulated directly by the Charity Commission.) HEFCE has incorporated this area of oversight into its existing assurance processes, to minimise the accountability burden on the sector.


 

Higher Education Statistics AgencyHESA

Overview of role

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) is the official agency for the collection, analysis and dissemination of quantitative information about higher education.

Legal status

HESA is a company limited by guarantee, owned by Universities UK and GuildHE, and is also a registered charity. The Further and Higher Education Act 1992 requires HEIs to give a funding council such information as it may require for the purposes of the exercise of any of it functions. Each HEI enters into a Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability or Financial Memorandum with the relevant funding council. There is a requirement for each HEI to pay a subscription and supply accurate data to HESA.  There are specific conditions for course designation that result in some Alternative Providers supplying student data and subscribing to HESA.

Governance arrangements

HESA’s board is made up of directors appointed by Universities UK and GuildHE, and other co-opted directors.

Funded by

HESA is largely funded by subscriptions.  HESA has a wholly owned subsidiary which covenants profits back to it.  HESA also receives some grant funding to fund specific projects and programmes

Remit

UK-wide.

Role in regulation

HESA plays a role in facilitating the regulation for financial sustainability by collecting the data returns that HEFCE requires. It is a condition of the Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability and for course designation by DfE that data is returned to HESA. HEFCE requires that data submitted to HESA must be fit for purpose and that higher education providers’ governing bodies provide assurances to this effect. HESA is also required to collect data that are used for monitoring widening participation, managing funding, student number control, equalities monitoring, and other policy and public information requirements, including information to inform student choice. 


 

National College for Teaching and LeadershipNCTL

Overview of role

National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) is part of the Department for Education and supports the development of a self-improving, school-led system. It was established on 1 April 2013, replacing The Teaching Agency and the National College for School Leadership. NCTL has two overarching aims: improving the quality of the education workforce and helping schools to help each other to improve.

Legal status

Executive agency of Department for Education.

Funded by

Department for Education.

Remit

England only

Role in regulation

For HEIs offering initial teacher training, HEFCE and NCTL hold a memorandum of understanding under which HEFCE provides assurance on HEIs financial viability and sustainability. For non-HEIs, NCTL has a small audit team which seeks to monitor financial irregularities.


 

Office for Fair AccessOFFA

Overview of role

OFFA’s role is to promote and safeguard fair access to higher education for lower-income students and other under-represented groups following the introduction of higher tuition fees in 2006-07. 

Legal status

Non-departmental public body.

Governance arrangements

OFFA is led by the Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, who reports to the Secretary of State for Education. OFFA has an advisory group but no board. OFFA’s powers are vested in the office of the Director of Fair Access under the 2004 Higher Education Act. The Office for Fair Access is made up of the Director and his staff, who support the Director in the discharge of his statutory duties.

Funded by

Department for Education.

Remit

England only.

Role in regulation

OFFA’s role in regulation relates to fair access. HEFCE-funded higher education providers that charge fees above the basic tuition fee level to any home or EU student for any of their undergraduate courses must have an access agreement with OFFA. Each access agreement is resubmitted annually with specific commitments made to the cohort entering higher education that year for the duration of their studies, as well as broader commitments around activity, and targets to widen participation and improve student success and progression.

The Director can reject an access agreement that does not meet his expectations and it is usual for the Director to renegotiate a number of agreements each year before approving them. Institutions are also required to submit an annual monitoring return to OFFA to demonstrate compliance with their access agreements. The access agreements and monitoring returns are published annually and provide a public record of both commitments and performance.

The Director of Fair Access has a number of sanctions available to him if an institution breaches its agreement, and fails to rectify such a breach. These include: requesting HEFCE to withhold grant until access agreement commitments have been met; imposing a fine of up to £500,000; and, for the most serious of breaches, refusing to approve a new agreement for a specified period.


 

Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education‌OIA

Overview of role

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education’s (OIA’s) role is to review individual and group complaints by students against higher education providers, once internal processes have been exhausted, and to promote good practice in handling complaints and appeals. 

Legal status

The Scheme run by the OIA is established under the 2004 Higher Education Act. The Office of the Independent Adjudicator is a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity, and is governed by its Memorandum and Articles of Association.

Governance arrangements

The Board of Directors has 15 members. Nine (including the Chair and a Director recruited to help provide a student perspective) are Independent Directors appointed by fair and open competition on the basis of the value and relevance of their skills and experience. Six are Nominated Directors who represent the major representative bodies in higher education in England and Wales. The representative bodies may also appoint Alternate Directors, to attend Board meetings if their Nominated Director is not available. The Board has no right to interfere with the operational decisions of the Independent Adjudicator, and is required to uphold his or her independence. The members of the Company are the Association of Heads of University Administration, the Committee of University Chairs, GuildHE, Higher Education Wales, the National Union of Students and Universities UK.

Funded by

Subscriptions from member institutions (with a case-related element from 2014).

Remit

England and Wales.

Role in regulation

OIA is responsible for reviewing student complaints against its member institutions once internal procedures have been exhausted The OIA will consider whether or not the HEI properly applied its regulations and followed its procedures, and whether or not a decision made by the HEI was reasonable in the circumstances. The OIA cannot review complaints about academic judgment or admissions.

While the OIA has no regulatory power over higher education providers and cannot fine them, qualifying higher education institutions are required by law to join the OIA scheme. The OIA recommends remedies (for example, the opportunity to have an appeal reheard) or compensation for students where complaints are justified or partly justified.


 

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher EducationQAA

Overview of role

QAA’s mission is to safeguard academic standards and improve the quality of UK higher education. QAA offers advice, guidance and support to help UK higher education providers (universities, colleges and other organisations, both public and alternative providers) to offer the best possible student experience of higher education. It conducts peer-based reviews and publishes reports detailing the findings under contract to various bodies which hold regulatory powers. QAA publishes the UK quality code and guidance which it maintains on behalf of and with the consent of the sector. It sets out the expectations that all UK higher education providers are required to meet. It has three main parts: academic standards, quality of learning opportunities and information about higher education provision. QAA works with in partnership with students, involving them in governance, in reviews of higher education providers, and in the development of policy and the Quality Code.

Legal status

An independent body, a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee.

Governance arrangements

QAA Board members represent a wide range of interests, in higher education and other areas. A number of Board members been appointed on the basis of their experience of industry, commerce, finance or the practice of a profession. There are two student members. The Board also has members appointed by bodies representing UK higher education providers, and by the higher education funding councils.

Funded by

Subscriptions and charges from higher education providers, and through contracts and agreements with the UK funding bodies, to which it reports annually on its activity. QAA also has contracts with the General Osteopathic Council and the NCTL. QAA also offers a range of paid-for training and consultancy services in the UK and internationally

Remit

UK-wide and international.

Role in regulation

On behalf of the organisations that hold regulatory powers, QAA carries out a range of reviews to provide public assurance on academic standards and quality within higher education providers.

QAA has a role in the process for granting degree-awarding powers. Applications are considered against a set of criteria designed to establish that the applicant is a well-founded, cohesive and self-critical academic community that can demonstrate firm guardianship of its standards. 

QAA advises Government about Access to HE courses. It licenses and reviews the independent awarding bodies for Access to HE, and courses are approved for eligibility for funding by the Education and Skills Funding Agency on the basis of QAA’s advice. QAA maintains an Access Recognition Scheme, which includes the terms of the licensing agreement and criteria against which awarding bodies are assessed.


 

Student Loans Company

SLC

Overview of role

SLC provides financial support to individuals following higher education courses at higher education providers throughout the UK. It provides loans and non-repayable grants for living costs and studying expenses as well as loans to meet the costs of tuition fees, which are paid directly to higher education providers on behalf of students. It also collects repayments from customers no longer in higher education.

Legal status

The Student Loans Company Limited is a non-profit making government-owned organisation set up in 1989. It is an executive non-departmental public body and a company limited by shares.

Governance arrangements

SLC’s remit, performance targets and funding are set by Government under the terms of its Framework Document and annual performance and resource agreements. Overall operational control is in the hands of a Company Board which comprises the Chief Executive, Non-executive Directors and the Company Secretary. Representatives from BIS and the Scottish Government also attend board meetings as Assessors. Representatives of the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Assembly are entitled to attend Board meetings, and members of the Executive Management Team also attend.

Funded by

Department for Education and the devolved administrations. There is a small income stream from participating higher education providers, to recover cost of administering bursaries on their behalf.

Remit

SLC manages the complete application and assessment process for England and Wales, including provision of information, advice and guidance. Scotland and Northern Ireland carry out their own application processing, and SLC provides systems and services to Northern Ireland. SLC is responsible for loan payment and repayment across all four administrations.

Role in regulation

SLC is primarily a provider of funding to students under the terms of the Student Support Regulations in force, and has no explicit regulatory role. However, HEFCE and SLC have an agreement through which HEFCE undertakes to provide SLC with information and concerns regarding institutions that HEFCE funds. SLC also provides some statistical data to HEFCE under data-sharing agreements, makes submissions to BIS, and publishes official and national statistics.

The four UK government administrations provide demand-led funding to meet student support take-up and grant-in-aid funding for SLC running costs. Along with the funding, the four administrations set student support regulations that govern eligibility and entitlement to student finance and repayment terms. Eligible students who apply are awarded means-tested or non means-tested support to cover their maintenance and tuition in line with their entitlement and the regulations of their administration. Various government-funded targeted support packages are also offered.


 

UCASUCAS

Overview of role

UCAS provides a range of admissions services that support the recruitment aims of higher education providers and ensure that everyone who has the potential to succeed in UK higher education has access to the information, support and services they need to make well informed choices and applications.  

Legal status

UCAS is an independent body, a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee.

Governance arrangements

The work of UCAS is overseen by a Board of up to 12 trustees. The Board is skills-based, with the majority of trustees having a higher education background. The Chair is a Vice-Chancellor or Principal nominated by Universities UK in consultation with GuildHE. The other trustees include five heads of institutions from higher education, a principal from a further education college providing higher education, a secondary education leader and up to four members co-opted on the basis of specific skills, such as IT, operational delivery, finance or audit.

Funded by

Fees from higher education providers per student accepted and application fees from students. UCAS also has a commercial arm which donates profits by gift aid to the parent company.

Remit

UK-wide.

Role in regulation

UCAS does not have a regulatory role. However it does perform financial checks on higher education providers as part of their request to access UCAS services, and provides data and analysis to HEFCE in support of its regulatory functions.


 

UK Visas and ImmigrationUKVI

Overview of role

The Home Office is the lead government department for immigration, so has a role in higher education in relation to those institutions which wish to recruit and enrol overseas students or staff. Its work in this area is carried out by two principal units: UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and immigration enforcement.

Legal status

Ministerial department of the UK Government.

Funded by

Treasury.

Remit

UK-wide.

Role in regulation

The Home Office’s role in higher education relates to those education providers which wish to recruit and enrol overseas students or staff. Education providers must act as sponsors for migrant students or staff through the Home Office’s points-based sponsorship system. There are regulatory requirements which education providers must meet and demonstrate compliance.

To enrol foreign students, education providers must hold Tier 4 sponsor status. Along with other requirements for this, education providers are subject to a review conducted by QAA on behalf of the Home Office.

Further information and guidance on what this means for education providers is available.


 

Universities UKUUK

Overview of role

Universities UK’s (UUK’s) mission is to be the definitive voice for universities in the UK. Its primary objective is to support its members in the achievements of their aims, and help maintain the world-leading strength of the university sector as a whole. It achieves this through lobbying and policy development, advocating and campaigning on behalf of the UK’s universities, coordinating sector-wide engagement on major issues, and maintaining strong and proactive relationships with government, the private sector, the professions and sector agencies.

Legal status

Company limited by guarantee with charitable status.

Funded by

Financed mainly through subscription from its member institutions.

Remit

UK-wide.

Role in regulation of higher education

UUK is not a regulator.

UUK represents the sector in relation to regulation, engaging with government departments, Parliament, funding agencies, representative bodies (such as the National Union of Students) and many other stakeholders to ensure that universities are meeting the needs of students and society.  It also seeks to ensure that accountability is achieved without creating excessive, expensive and unnecessary regulation.

Working with HEFCE in 2013 UUK developed the Agreement on Institutional Designation to make explicit the links between current institutional accountability requirements and automatic designation for student support, setting out a process for addressing non-compliance with accountability measures.

UUK is engaged in work on simplifying demands for data, increasing the openness of data, and the future of quality assurance, while monitoring the regulation implications of other higher education policy areas. 


Page last updated 4 October 2017

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