To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect of the office for students registration fees on the financial viability of further education colleges.
23 July 2019
All providers are being treated equitably.
We consulted with all providers, including further education (FE) colleges, twice, on the introduction of registration fees (from December 2016 until March 2017, and from October 2017 until December 2017). The Office for Students (OfS) separately consulted on the model for deciding how student numbers should be determined to inform the fee levels. It published the outcomes of this consultation in October 2018. Following the consultation processes, a number of additional bands were added for smaller providers compared with the original proposal. The costs for a very small provider have decreased from the second phase of the consultation, where a provider with 0-50 full-time equivalent student numbers, the lowest band, was proposed to pay £18,200. Providers with full-time equivalent student numbers of no more than 25 will now pay £12,300, and providers with more than 25 but no more than 50 (full time equivalent) will pay £15,350.
We also considered the impact of fees more widely and published an impact assessment in March 2019. The impact assessment considered higher education providers – including FE colleges – taxpayers, the government and students. The impact assessment report stated:
‘We have … analysed Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) college accounts data for 120 FE colleges with Higher Education Funding Council for England funded learners, that have applied to register and found that FE colleges would be paying on average 0.2% of their total income in registration fees. This ranges from 0.05% to 1.3% of total income but with just one provider paying more than 1%. … these proportions are very small and highly unlikely to impede competition in the higher education market.’
We have committed to a full review of registration fees after 2 years, when the impact of the fees on all providers will be clearer.
I meet regularly with the Chair and officials from the OfS to discuss a wide range of issues, including the financial health of all parts of the higher education sector, which is kept under constant review by the OfS.