Independent HE News – October 2016 Newsletter


Independent HE members attend round table discussion with Universities Minister Jo Johnson

A dozen Independent HE members were invited to a round table meeting on 21 October with Jo Johnson, the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, to discuss the Higher Education and Research Bill as it comes to the end of its passage through the House of Commons and moves onto the Lords. The Minister showed a keen interest in our members’ different perspectives on the challenges that independent HEIs currently face operating in the higher education sector and on how the reforms of the Bill should improve the regulatory environment to enhance the competitiveness of new and innovative providers.

The meeting included a vigorous airing of the problems with the current Validation system, a discussion on the potential of  accelerated and flexible delivery to underpin innovative new courses, and other measures necessary to ensure that students from all backgrounds have access to the widest range of courses possible.This round table is just the latest milestone in a positive track record of enhanced engagement between the Government and the independent sector which has been facilitated by Independent HE.


Independent HE members meet with Peru Delegation

On Wednesday 19 October, representatives from several Independent HE member institutions met with a Peru Delegation as part of the Peru Higher Education Study Visit, organised by the British Council. The meeting with the Peruvian delegates was intended to enable the delegation to get a broader understanding of the UK higher education system, with members sharing the unique aspects of the UK system in relation to independent providers. With Peru undergoing an important university reform aimed at improving the quality of HE institutions, the visit was an important part of the Prosperity Project that the British Council is implementing with government funds to strengthen ties in Higher Education between Peru and the UK. It is hoped that this will be achieved by delivering technical assistance and knowledge transfer around Internationalisation, Governance and Quality Assurance to Peruvian Policy Makers and Higher Education leaders.


Open University’s pilot validation project with Independent HE aims to create exemplar validation model for the sector

Dr Liz Marr, the Director of Teaching at The Open University, has blogged for WonkHE on the pilot validation scheme that The OU has created in partnership with Independent Higher Education and QAA. The scheme aims to create an exemplar validation model for the sector, which will increase the efficiency of validation arrangements and remove barriers to institutions seeking validation. The exemplar model being worked towards in the project hopes to position the OU as a validator of first resort, a validator of choice rather than one of “last resort”.


Independent HE publish Position Paper on the Higher Education & Research Bill

Independent HE has produced a position paper on the Higher Education and Research Bill, which was submitted as evidence to the HE Bill Committee. The position paper addresses the importance of the HE Bill; regulation by the Office for Students; widening participation; and Degree Awarding Powers and validation.  The paper also includes a number of IHE member institutions as case studies of independent providers of higher education. You can read the Paper in full here.

The HE Bill has now completed its Commons committee stage, with the final sessions (the thirteenth and fourteenth sittings) taking place on 18 October.  Having considered around 250 amendments, the Bill will now move onto the Report stage and a Third reading in the full Commons chamber. Apart from the Government amendments proposed by Jo Johnson himself, which focused on technical tweaks and minor amendments to better reflect the aims of the White Paper, as well as some to facilitate cooperation with the devolved nations, very little has changed in the actual text of the Bill and no opposition amendments were agreed upon. Following its Third reading in the Commons, the Bill will move to the House of Lords, where it is likely to receive somewhat more robust scrutiny from the many Peers with strong links to the higher education sector (including University Chancellorships), and where the Government does not enjoy the same majority.


Independent HE hold first in new series of ‘Meet the Experts’ events

This month, Independent HE held the first event in our newly launched programme of Meet the Experts events, which aim to boost mutual engagement between and understanding of independent providers and sector bodies. The first session took place at new IHE member Pearson College London’s Midtown Campus and welcomed the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). The experts included HESA Chief Executive Paul Clark as well as Alison Berry, Head of Stakeholder Liaison and Rebecca Haslam, a Senior Information Analyst. The session gave members the opportunity to engage with HESA regarding the upcoming changes to the alternative provider data return which was due earlier this month as well as with HESA’s new Data Futures Programme.

In his introduction to the session, Independent HE Chief Executive Alex Proudfoot declared that the HE sector was “starting to embrace a new normal of a greater number and diversity of providers”, predicting that by 2020 the number of independent providers that HESA works with will outnumber traditional universities two to one, meaning that this set of relationships would be “critical” in the coming years. He went on to explain that regulation would increasingly rely upon dat, telling members that “the Government will judge you on your data. Students will judge you on your data. And data can also be a powerful tool in self-improvement and quality enhancement.” He concluded that it was therefore “all important that the independent sector and HESA understand each other”, and welcomed the agency’s willingness to engage as marking just “the beginning of the conversation” with the independent sector.


Independent HE CEO speaks at Universities UK conference on the Higher Education White Paper

Independent HE’s Chief Executive, Alex Proudfoot, spoke at Universities UK’s conference, ‘The Higher Education White Paper: What it Means for Your Institution’ on 11 October. The event was focussed on exploring the implications of the White Paper for higher education institutions. Alex took part in a panel session alongside Alison Jones, University Secretary and Director of Planning at the University of Bradford, the Chief Executive of GuildHE, Gordon McKenzie and Wonkhe founder Mark Leach, which looked in detail at the new competitive environment proposed by the White Paper. Alex mentioned that the HE Bill will make regulation of independent HE providers consistent and simpler to understand for students; he defended the need for probationary DAPs as one of the options for new providers, but suggested they would be attractive mainly to those whose courses already had inherent value even without a degree attached, for example conferring a widely recognised professional diploma alongside the degree; and said that validation would and should remain the best choice for most new providers, and that Independent HE is working with the OU on developing best practice towards the aim of helping the OfS designate a central “validator of first, not last, resort”.


Independent HE members ICMP launch partnership with Tileyard Studios

Earlier this month, IHE member institution The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance launched ICMP@Tileyard, a special partnership with Tileyard Studios, the largest professional music community in Europe. This partnership will form part of ICMP’s commitment to improving their student learning environment, strengthening their ties to industry and providing further opportunities for graduate employability.

N.B. We want to highlight positive news of this kind from across our membership in our newsletter and to external stakeholders, and the Department for Education is also keen to gather positive stories and successes from the independent higher education sector. If you have something of this nature that you would like us to highlight and share with DfE, please get in touch with our Communications Officer, Rhys Newcombe-Jones here.


Staff changes at Independent HE – new Communication Officer

Lucy Whitehead, Membership and Engagement Officer at Independent HE and Study UK before it, has now left the company to pursue a PhD. Lucy became an invaluable part of the Study UK team in her three years in post; we are very grateful to her for all her hard work in this formative time and wish her all the best in her new academic career. If you would like to send any personal messages of thanks or otherwise get in touch with Lucy, please email Alex ( and he will pass them on.

Rhys Newcombe-Jones has now joined the company as our new Communications Officer. Rhys leads on communications and membership activities, keeping members informed of developments in the sector, overseeing our monthly newsletter, and managing IHE’s online presence. Before joining the education sector, Rhys worked at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre and worked in the production teams for the Encounters and Bath film festivals. He has a BSc in Geography and an MA in Film and Television from the University of Bristol.

  • On 24th October 2016