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External regulation

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The 2017 Higher Education and Research Bill (2017) brought into law the move to a risk-based regulatory framework for HE and the creation of an Office for Students (OfS) to replace HEFCE as the main regulator for HE.

The OfS acts as a regulator in the interests of students and taxpayers, with universities and colleges positioned as ‘providers’ with a focus on service delivery. The OfS has four primary objectives. Students:

  1. Are supported to access, succeed in, and progress from higher education
  2. Receive a high quality academic experience, and their interests are protected while they study, or in the event of closure
  3. Are able to progress into employment or further study, and their qualifications hold value over time
  4. Receive value for money, which also applies to taxpayers, given debates about how well universities spend 'public' money

From 1 August 2019, the OfS Regulatory Framework came fully into force for registered providers. Of the 24 ongoing registration conditions, key ongoing ones include: a student access and participation plan being set and enforced, student outcomes, student protection plans, financial sustainability, and effective leadership and governance.

In addition, OfS remains principal regulator of universities as exempt charities, and the monitoring authority for compliance with the Prevent Duty. It delegates assurance of academic quality and standards to the established Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), and HE statistics and data to the Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA).