The Office for Students (OfS) has published a consultation on a new approach to how it regulates access and participation in higher education. The proposal includes tougher expectations and improved scrutiny, as well as changes to processes that will enable longer-term working and reduce the administrative burden.
OfS director for fair access and participation Chris Millward said the OfS had a new set of tools to pressure and support colleges and universities to improve access, success and outcomes for disadvantaged students.
“This consultation is about making sure we’re using those tools in the most effective way,” he said, adding: “It’s the biggest shake up of access and participation regulation since 2004, and we think it has truly exciting potential to really ratchet up the pace of change. These changes will reduce red tape, freeing up higher education staff to do more direct, long-term work with students, families, schools and communities.
“But we will also increase our scrutiny of the progress universities and colleges are making, and continue to intervene where necessary to make change happen.
Tougher requirements and new targets
Currently, universities and colleges offering HE courses submit access plans to a five-year cycle with three-yearly reviews and annual monitoring. The plans would see the OfS move away from that.
They would also mean some targets would be developed and specified by the OfS, rather than the provider, and tougher requirements on evaluation to influence providers to work in more evidence-based, strategic ways. Providers would also need to publish a wider range of transparency data about student characteristics, including age and disability.
The proposals were developed in discussion with higher education providers, students, schools, colleges, higher education mission groups, third sector agencies and other experts.