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Higher Education

Question for Department for Education

UIN 139468, tabled on 14 March 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what threshold would have to be reached in order to trigger an intervention by his Department in the event of a higher education provider exiting the market.

Answered on

24 March 2022

The higher education (HE) financial sustainability oversight group is a group formed of government officials and officials from non-departmental public bodies. Its purpose is to oversee the overall climate for HE provider financial sustainability and to identify emerging key risks and issues for the English HE sector as a whole.

The group is chaired by the Senior Civil Servant who is responsible for HE financial sustainability. There is an established escalation process in place to keep ministers sighted on shared information, risks, and issues.

There is no set threshold that would automatically trigger an intervention with individual HE providers. The Office for Students (OfS) collects financial data from HE providers. The OfS analyses the data to ensure it has an up to date understanding of the sustainability of the sector. Where the OfS identifies concerns about the financial viability of an HE provider, it will implement enhanced monitoring of that provider.

In exceptional circumstances, the department has introduced time-limited, emergency funding schemes, such as the higher education restructuring regime established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it should be noted that the department would generally not financially intervene to save failing HE providers, as they are autonomous institutions responsible for their own business models.