IHE responds to NAO report on franchised higher education

Commenting on the NAO report, IHE’s Chief Executive Alex Proudfoot said:

"This important report from the National Audit Office reinforces our longstanding call that Government and regulators should review the partnership models operated across the higher education sector with the aim of ensuring that quality, transparency, and student choice are all protected. There are many outstanding collaborations between universities, independent providers and further education colleges which help to widen access to a greater range of specialist and student-centred provision across all regions of the UK. 

"For many providers who are small or just starting out, a subcontract model makes sense as it allows them to focus on teaching while giving their partner university the tools to ensure that the quality of provision and the student experience are maintained at the appropriate level. After this developmental 'apprenticeship' stage, however, most institutions do find they benefit from building the independence attained through moving to a validation model, becoming directly regulated, and eventually applying for their own awarding powers. This is a journey that we at IHE have helped many providers to successfully undertake.

"IHE has also led the way in highlighting publicly where the system of validation and subcontracts can be improved further for the benefit of students and providers, and we continue to champion best practice in this space. As the organisation which works most closely with validated and subcontracted providers on a daily basis, we already know that there is a strong case for greater transparency around student outcomes and a more consistent set of practices across the sector. We are pleased to already be working closely with teams in the Department for Education to share our extensive knowledge and expertise to help inform future policy decisions.

"We strongly support an effective and proportionate system of regulation which encourages and facilitates every provider to seek independently regulated status, but there is a significant distance to travel still in England before the Office for Students has the ability and capacity to register every provider teaching funded students. It is hard to see this changing without a much greater prioritisation of OfS resources towards delivering the efficient registration, quality and standards, and Degree Awarding Powers processes that the sector deserves – leaving aside the delays to introducing a third registration category which will be essential to the success of the Lifelong Learning Entitlement.

"IHE is currently leading the sector-wide steering group which is conducting a detailed review of the state of partnerships in UK HE today and we will shortly be launching phase two of our project with a survey of awarding providers going live this week. Publication of the final report is scheduled for the spring, and we look forward to sharing its findings in due course."

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