The report 'Must do better: the Office for Students and the looming crisis facing higher education' finds that the regulator "has poor relations with providers and students, a controlling and arbitrary approach to regulation, and lacks independence from the Government". It sets out a number of conclusions and recommendations, to which the Government must formally respond.
IHE gave evidence in person and in writing to the inquiry, focusing on the need for a strategic vision for the sector which prioritises growth, flexibility and innovation to underpin what is an increasingly complex regulatory framework.
Responding to the publication of the report, Alex Proudfoot, Chief Executive of Independent Higher Education, said:
“This significant report by the Industry and Regulators Committee makes clear why hundreds of tertiary education providers in England still operate outside of the OfS’s regulatory framework: because it simply hasn’t been designed to accommodate them. The OfS must now become not just the regulator of university degrees, but of flexible lifelong learning across the full breadth of post-18 academic, technical and professional education.
“The Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) presents an unprecedented opportunity to transform the ability of individuals to learn, qualify, retrain and upskill throughout their working lives, but we need our regulator to embrace this change and promote the expansion of provision which will enable it. Every tertiary education provider in England should be encouraged to enter regulation, and the OfS should see it as central to its mission to support this goal with a sufficiently flexible, sophisticated and proportionate approach.
“Given all of the challenges we face as a society today, our members need their regulator to focus its limited resources on issues of strategic importance, resisting the temptations of micro-management and mission creep. Higher education is a complex sector, far more diverse than is often understood, and it has the power to transform lives, enrich communities and energise industries in ways which pack an unparalleled economic punch. This is why it is so vital to the country as a whole that the OfS stay focused on harnessing the power of this incredible sector, not tangling it up in red tape – part of the solution to driving growth and unleashing innovation, not adding unnecessary barriers and burden.
“The report also highlights the importance of financial sustainability and the part internationalisation plays in this. International students enrich our sector in ways far beyond their financial contribution, significant though this is. It is a great privilege and a source of pride for the nation that we help so many talented people from around the world to realise their potential, and in doing so forge lifelong connections within the UK. There is no tension between wanting the UK to be the world’s leading destination for education while also widening access and boosting funding for UK students to benefit from high-quality teaching and research.”
It is vital that the OfS stay focused on harnessing the power of this incredible sector, not tangling it up in red tape – part of the solution to driving growth and unleashing innovation, not adding unnecessary barriers and burden.