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Higher Education: Registration

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL17638, tabled on 3 September 2019

To ask Her Majesty's Government what information they have received about the reasons for the Office for Students refusing registration of institutions that have been operating successfully under the previous Higher Education Funding Council for England regulatory framework, including its financial sustainability test, such as Spurgeon’s College, despite the circumstances of an institution remaining unchanged.

Answered on

9 September 2019

The Higher Education and Research Act (HERA) sets out the procedure under which the Office for Students (OfS) refuses registration applications should a higher education provider not meet one or more of the OfS initial conditions of registration. The OfS will inform a provider to tell it they are minded to refuse its application. The provider then has an opportunity to make representations to the OfS, and it is only after considering these representations that the OfS takes a final decision. A provider may subsequently seek to challenge the decision through judicial review.

While the OfS took on some of the responsibilities of the Higher Education Funding Council for England following its closure, the OfS was set up as a new organisation with a new remit and responsibilities. The OfS regulatory framework and its guidance to providers sets out how applications for registration are assessed. The department is unable to comment on individual cases related to the OfS registration process. Neither the department nor our ministers can intervene in judicial reviews of the decisions of the OfS.

The OfS considers the impact on both current and prospective students before taking registration decisions. A decision to refuse is not taken lightly, but HERA is clear that a provider which does not meet the OfS initial conditions of registration must be refused. Circumstances for current students will vary at different providers. However, the OfS will always seek to work with the provider to ensure that students are supported to complete their studies – either at their current provider where existing students can continue to access student support for the purposes of teach out, or at a new provider. Higher education providers should have systems and policies in place to offer appropriate mental health support and signposting to specialist help where necessary.