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Office for Students (OfS)

Find out about the Office for Students (OfS), its objectives, regulatory framework and the responsibilities of key groups and individuals for UCL's compliance with the OfS regulations.

Introduction

The Office for Students (OfS) is the independent regulator of higher education in England and was established by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. By being registered with the OfS a provider can access public grant funding, maintain a visa licence allowing the recruitment of international students, and apply for degree awarding powers in order to award their own degrees, and/or university title. The OfS is focused on the student experience of, and student outcomes from, higher education.

The four primary objectives of the OfS are that all students, from all backgrounds, and with the ability and desire to undertake higher education:

  1. Are supported to access, succeed in, and progress from, higher education.
  2. Receive a high-quality academic experience, and their interests are protected while they study or in the event of provider, campus or course closure.
  3. Are able to progress into employment or further study, and their qualifications hold their value over time.
  4. Receive value for money.

Regulatory Framework

The OfS operates a risk-based approach to regulation and sets out to mitigate risk through the regulatory framework. Under the OfS regulatory framework there are 24 conditions of registration that UCL must continue to meet to remain a registered provider.  Each condition has been mapped to a relevant professional services team at UCL as well as committees or groups who would be responsible for the monitoring of the condition. 

The OfS monitors providers compliance with the conditions of registration to assess the risk of a breach of any of the conditions. The OfS does this through routine data collections, additional information requests and reportable events.

Where the OfS feels there is an increased risk of a breach of one or more conditions of registration, either by UCL or by all higher education providers, they will request additional information outside of the routine data collections.

The OfS also requires UCL to submit any reportable events to the OfS to ensure the OfS is able to monitor the risk of UCL breaching any conditions of registration. 

Reportable events 

UCL is required to submit reportable events within 5 working days of becoming aware of the event. The OfS has provided the following definition of a reportable event.

“A reportable event is any event or matter that, in the reasonable judgement of the OfS, negatively affects or could negatively affect:

a. The provider’s eligibility for registration with the OfS.

 b. The provider's ability to comply with its conditions of registration.

c. The provider's eligibility for degree awarding powers, or its ability to comply with the criteria for degree awarding powers, where the provider: i. holds degree awarding powers; or ii. has submitted an application for degree awarding powers to the OfS, and for which the OfS has yet to reach a final decision.

d. The provider's eligibility for university title, where the provider: i. holds university title; or ii. has submitted an application for university title to the OfS, and for which the OfS has yet to reach a final decision. In interpreting ‘the reasonable judgement of the OfS', the OfS will, as a matter of policy, consider whether a reasonable provider intent on complying with all of its conditions of registration and acting in the interests of students and taxpayers (rather than in its own commercial, reputational or other interests) would consider the event or matter to be material.

In interpreting ‘the reasonable judgement of the OfS', the OfS will, as a matter of policy, consider whether a reasonable provider intent on complying with all of its conditions of registration and acting in the interests of students and taxpayers (rather than in its own commercial, reputational or other interests) would consider the event or matter to be material.”

A list of example reportable events is provided in annex A of the regulatory advice notice 16. The OfS uses reportable events to assess the risk level of a provider.

The SRS compliance team in the Registrar's Office are responsible for submitting reportable events on behalf of UCL to the OfS. UCL staff who would like more information on how to submit a reportable event should visit the reportable events pages (UCL log in required).  

Roles and Responsibilities

The OfS has placed providers' governing bodies firmly at the heart of its regulatory framework, making them responsible for the oversight and governance of registration. However, the OfS requires each provider to have an Accountable Officer, who reports to the OfS on the provider's behalf. At UCL this is the President and Provost. In practice, on a day-to-day basis, the SRS Compliance Team in the Registrar's Office carries out these duties on behalf of the Provost. The SRS Compliance Team:

  • Liaises with the Provost's Office regarding any correspondence received by the accountable officer and disseminating as appropriate
  • Oversees the monitoring of compliance with OfS regulations
  • Facilitates UCL's engagement with consultations 
  • Submits Reportable events to the OfS
  • Offers guidance in relation to OfS matters and distributing any key communications received from the OfS
  • Provides an update on OfS matters for each Council meeting.

The responsible officers in the Registrar's Office are:

  • Sarah Cowls, Executive Director of Student Services and Registrar
  • Sarah West, Deputy Registrar 
  • Hannah Swallow, Compliance Manager (srs-compliance@ucl.ac.uk)

If you have any questions relating to the OfS please contact srs-compliance@ucl.ac.uk in the first instance.

If you are a member of staff at UCL, the SRS compliance team have published further guidance for staff.