Further to our earlier posting, BIS has now published the final form of its guidance for alternative providers seeking designation for courses to enable their students access to Student Loans Company funding. 

The new arrangements will affect all new specific course designation applications for the 2013/14 academic year.  The guidance sets out:

  • details of the new application timetable and process;
  • transitional arrangements for existing providers;
  • conditions that providers must meet in terms of:
    • quality assurance (through QAA review and appropriate validation of courses);
    • financial sustainability, management and governance;
    • course eligibility.
  • how the student number control will apply from 2014/15 for full-time students, and the likely financial and other penalties that may apply if the control is exceeded;
  • requirements to supply information;
  • annual monitoring arrangements and applicable sanctions if concerns are raised during monitoring;
  • treatment of courses delivered by alternative providers under franchise arrangements with publicly funded HEIs, or with other alternative providers.
  • special rules for certain alternative providers, such as those with “University” or “University College” titles.

The guidance specifies that alternative providers will not be permitted to franchise or sub-contract their designations without BIS consent.

BIS says further guidance on the application of the student number control will be published in autumn 2013 which “will include an opportunity for alternative providers with significant committed new investment prior to the publication of the consultation response to submit a case for exceptional treatment”.

BIS has asked HEFCE to conduct an annual survey of student numbers; BIS stresses the need for alternative providers to supply accurate data and comments that they “may be disadvantaged if the data submitted is not accurate”.

The guidance also raises the possibility that a “lighter touch” regime might be applied at some point in future to annual monitoring of such providers, taking account of the type and size of institution, the specialist nature of some provision and track record with compliance.