In the BIS consultation on the proposed regulatory framework for higher education, four questions have been asked relating to the proposals for the Higher Education Funding Council for England to take on the role of an independent lead regulator. The first is a general question about whether any of the HEFCE processes could be improved, reduced or removed while still protecting the student interest and public funds. It is important to note here that HEFCE will become the regulator for all institutions whose students are eligible for the government's student support funding, including those currently regarded as "private providers" (which covers a range of for-profit businesses and charitable bodies).
The next three questions in this section relate specifically to the proposals concerning HEFCE's new role as "the student champion". It will be important to understand what types of issue could trigger this new power to investigate collective interest matters and how this will square with existing arrangements for dialogue which each institution will have with its students' union. The question of compensation is clearly envisaged as a possible remedy as two questions relate to this, namely whether (not if ) HEFCE or the OIA should have the ability to award compensation and whether compensation decisions should be recommendations to the governing body of the institution or mandatory awards. On what basis will such a compensatory power be exercised ? Will the monetary awards be distributed to those students who can prove loss caused by some yet-to-be-defined failings or will it be distributed to all students in the relevant cohort by way of a equal refund or will it act more as a fine / encouragement to the institution improve in some area ? Will there be an appeal mechanism ? It will be open to institutions to seek judicial review of decisions which are in breach of public law principles.