The condition will give the OfS the powers to direct universities and colleges to take certain actions – for example to arrange student transfers, provide information advice and guidance to students, or provide refunds – when a provider faces potential closure.
The new condition has been subject to a full consultation, where the proposals were supported by students and their representatives. There was less support from universities, colleges and other higher education providers – with concerns expressed about the impact the changes would have on the autonomy of providers.
The OfS considered these arguments very carefully in reaching a decision and concluded that – in circumstances where the powers needed to be used – protecting the interests of students should take precedence.
The condition has been introduced for three reasons:
- The pandemic has had an impact on the financial position of some higher education providers. As such there is a greater risk of a small number of providers needing, or choosing, to close.
- The OfS has identified common weaknesses in the student protection plans universities and colleges must implement in the event of a risk of closure.
- Swift action sometimes needs to be taken to protect the interests of students in these circumstances and using existing regulatory tools can create unhelpful delays.