New regulator for student choices among report recommendations

This week sees the publication of the government’s long awaited report into the state of the Higher Education Sector. “Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility & Student Choice” covers a range of issues, including greater private company involvement in education, how universities are funded as well as improving student care and choice

Among the headline measures is the news that BIS will establish a single market regulator, the Office for Students (OfS) and a single research and innovation funding body, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The OfS will be explicitly pro-competition and pro-student choice, and will make sure that a high quality higher education experience is available for students from all backgrounds. “For the first time, we will put the interests of the student at the heart of our regulatory landscape. By enabling better student outcomes, we will also protect the interests of taxpayers and the economy.”

The OfS is designed to be a a consumer focused market regulator with new statutory powers and an extended remit to regulate all registered HE providers; a Non-Departmental Public Body at arms’ length from government.


Wide ranging role

“Recognising the important role of the higher education sector in teaching, research and knowledge exchange it will take a holistic view of the sector and institutions and will be responsible for monitoring institutions’ financial sustainability and efficiency.

While the main focus of the report is on the provision of academic education through universities, the issue of apprenticeships does come in for scrutiny. Degree apprenticeships in particular come in for praise, but the reports authors say more work is needed to truly embed this form of learning into the HE choices available.

The report states that “The success of Degree Apprenticeships will depend on employers and universities working together. Employers will take the lead in designing the occupational standard taking account of the innovation and excellence universities can offer. This may involve changes to the way universities design and deliver courses to meet the standard. We have made an £8m Development fund available to help universities and partners to gather intelligence on employer demand and develop provision quickly to help meet that.”

In addition, BIS says it “Will continue to ensure that these apprenticeships are of the highest quality and meet employers’ needs through the Institute for Apprenticeships, a new independent body led by employers, which will be fully operational by April 2017. The apprenticeship levy, which also applies from April 2017, will provide a powerful incentive for even more employers to develop degree apprenticeships together with universities as valued and innovative providers.”

Find the government’s report here