He’s got a little list! The new Regulatory Framework.

So, it’s the hottest day of the year so far in the UK, and here I am slaving over statutes and university designation processes. I had an early look at this a year or so ago, but I wanted to come back to the idea in the light of the recent pronouncements from the Rt Hon David Willets, MP.

These changes are a part of a wider package to fill the hole left by the now dead-in-the-water HE Bill, and are principally related to the designation of institutions for particular purposes. You’d think that there is just one big list of universities and colleges that the government would use for this – there are in fact currently three:

  • Recognised bodies. These are institutions that have their own degree awarding powers and can award any degree. (there are also a small number of institutions that can only award specific qualifications, which are known as recognised awards). Recognised bodies are registered via their inclusion in the Education (Recognised Bodies) Order.
  • Listed bodies. These are institutions the deliver courses that lead to a degree awarded elsewhere, and there is an Education (Listed Bodies) Order for each of the Home Countries to manage this list.
  • The Home Office “Register of sponsors”, which is a list of all the institutions that are allowed to sponsor immigration using a student visa (tier 4).
  • The Privy Council have probably got a list somewhere (I imagine on vellum in blackletter script) of Universities that are allowed to call themselves a “University”. This list is not online, of course, because this internet thing is just a passing fad.
  • Of course – there aren’t just four lists. I lied. These are just the ones with official status. There’s also a list of institutions funded by HEFCE, and a list of institutions where students are eligible for loans, there’s an OFFA list of Universities that can charge more than ¬£6,000 a year, lists relating to NHS and teacher training funding… there’s bloody loads of the things.
  • … not forgetting a new and growing list of Alternative Providers¬†which have specific courses designated for the availability of HEFCE funding to the institution and/or loan (including fee loan) availability to the students. These “designated courses” are not the same as the “recognised awards” above)

Clearly, this was becoming an enormous headache – so a bunch of people from HEFCE and the Student Finance England got together to try to simplify things. Their big idea was to merge all these lists, and have one big list that could have columns – showing which of these designations each institutions had.

From next year HEFCE will be bringing together this list of “Designated Providers”, which will be available from 2014, and will use data from all of these various sources described above. It will also have a list of institutions that are not on the list – I imagine you could think of this as ” institutions of interest”, where they are not subject to the HEFCE regulatory framework but still worth keeping an eye on.

This “one list to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them” is the central plank of the government’s way of giving HEFCE the powers they need to actually do their regulatory job in the brave new HE market place without daring to put more coalition-threatening stuff about Higher Education to the House of Commons. From this little list, problems with quality and financial stability can be read across to bring about sanctions and penalties in student support designation.

Everyone is sharing a single list, and the laudable commitment to transparent data sharing means that HEFCE can keep all the useful stuff from their “Financial Memorandam” even thought they won’t be giving many institutions any actual finance after 2014-15.

You probably think I am making all this up, but I am not. It is real. HEFCE and SFEngland published their “Regulatory Framework” this week, and the Right Honourable Member for Havant dashed off a quick response in between MOOC-related meetings yesterday.

His next step will be to amend the 2011 Education (Student Support) Regulations to make reference to this shiny new spreadsheet. Because he’s got a little list. Yes, he’s got a little list.

There’s also a new-ish set of guidance for designating a course for student support, that I want to have a look at another time. Because it’s sunny damn it! And it’s lunch time. And I’m 250 metres from the pub….

 

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