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A first glance at the Office for Students
By Rebecca Orr
The Office for Students (OfS), the new independent regulator for higher education in England, will succeed HEFCE as the Principal Regulator for higher education providers from 1 April 2018. In advance of this change, a number of documents relating to the regulatory framework of the OfS were released to the public on Wednesday 28th February. The documents give us a greater insight into how the Office plans to perform its various functions and, crucially, what this could mean for the Higher Education sector as a whole.
While the information is pitched primarily at higher education providers, and is subject to further revision, there are some important takeaway points for students. These can be summarised as follows:
1) There will be a single register of higher education providers, which students will be able to consult. Only providers who meet a minimum level of provision will be allowed on the register. According to the OfS, indicators that a registered provider could risk breaching one or more of its ongoing conditions of registration include TEF performance, the number, nature or pattern of student complaints, graduate employment, and in particular progression to professional and postgraduate studies.
2) The Office will promote the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF). For providers over a certain size, inclusion on the register of providers will be dependent upon participation in the TEF from the year 2019-2020 onwards.
3) A Student Panel will be established to support the work of the student representative who will sit on the main board of the OfS. The Office will also seek the input of individual students and student unions.
4) Information for students, including that related to student outcomes and current and future employer needs, will be disseminated. While information is already accessible to students, further work will be done to review the information provided and, in particular, the operation and design of the Unistats website.
5) The ability of students to transfer to another course or provider will be promoted. Many providers already have this in place, but the OfS wants to make this information more widely accessible and to monitor the availability and utilisation of this arrangement.
6) Accelerated courses that allow students to study for a qualification over a shorter period of time will be supported by the OfS.