Get me on that spreadsheet! ‘Excel’ing at Student Protection…

The OfS Register lists all the English higher education providers officially registered by the OfS. It is a single, authoritative reference about a provider’s regulatory status.

The register means providers in England now have to demonstrate that they meet baseline requirements relating to quality, student protection, financial sustainability, and (for those wanting to charge higher tuition fees) access and participation.

This gives students confidence their university or college is registered, it is meeting these thresholds and is subject to OfS regulatory scrutiny.

There are however it would seem delays to the process and in some cases, applications have generated the need to commission independent governance reviews or to seek further, often extensive, evidence from the provider.

The traditional universities have proved most straightforward, with HE in FE coming next. But there’s a dearth of alternative providers – a headache for the regulator when the government’s continued political priority is a level playing field and the encouragement of diversity of provision.

The published register itself is an interesting beast. It’s a spreadsheet that details whether a formal ongoing condition of registration has been imposed on a provider against each bit of the regulatory framework.

The intention here is clear but significant questions do remain…

  • How are students to even know if providers exist let alone rely on them?
  • If a provider actually collapsed (even if a student had the SPP in their hand), who would they brandish it at?
  • In administration, where is student compensation in the financial queue?
  • Why is every provider allowed to define and assess risks differently?
  • How can every provider describe the risk of hitting financial trouble as vanishingly small?
  • Several of the providers hit by the USS strike in the spring don’t even mention the risk of industrial action?

OfS has work to do and it will be interesting to see how the OfS register evolves. You can view this evolvement and download the register here.