Our Policy Position


Following the passage of the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, GuildHE has been active in communicating about and responding to government and Office for Students consultations on the new regulatory framework for higher education. It is vital that the OfS recognises the diversity of providers in the sector and understands the burden new process may place on GuildHE members. We fundamentally believe that UK higher education is so strong, in part because it is so diverse, and we will continue to put pressure on the OfS and its regulatory process to ensure that all providers, regardless of their size or background are able to operate fairly.

We are proud to say that after extensive lobbying during the Bill debates, we were able to secure the protection of diversity within the Act by requiring the OfS to have due regard for the diversity of types of provider (e.g small, specialists, religious, regionally focused, FE); higher education courses; and the means by which they are provided (e.g. full-time/part-time, distance learning or accelerated courses). However, the government’s response is that is has already done enough because the new Office for Students (OfS) will have duties to promote choice and encourage competition. We therefore continue to argue that this initial interpretation of the OfS’s duty hasn’t fully reflected the intentions of Parliament, and that market forces alone will not work. The OfS should have a clear duty to promote and maintain diversity, not just ensure new providers are able to enter the market.

We are also concerned with the lack of references to the role of students in the regulatory restructure. The OfS cites in many places the primary objective of the OfS is protect the interests of students. However it is unclear what role the Student Panel at OfS will have in decision making within the organisation. We have heard many times from members of the importance of student partnership within our institutions, and we will be pushing the OfS to maintain the expectation of student partnership as a condition of registration, and to work collectively with students in its own operation.

Finally we wish to ensure that the cost of regulation is proportionate. Whilst it may be true that new providers pose a greater regulatory risk, the OfS funding bands and regulatory processes disproportionately affect smaller providers. It is unfair to put additional pressures on institutions just because of their size, and we continue to lobby Government and the OfS to ensure that regulation and costs do not disadvantage our diverse providers.