Independent Higher Education (IHE) comments on Court of Appeal ruling relating to IHE member Bloomsbury Institute and the Office for Students (OfS)
Commenting on today’s Court of Appeal ruling which overturned the decision by the Office for Students last year to refuse Bloomsbury Institute’s registration, Alex Proudfoot, Chief Executive of Independent Higher Education, said:
“I welcome today’s Court of Appeal judgment. Bloomsbury Institute is a special institution, run by professionals who are passionately committed to changing the lives of Londoners from the most disadvantaged of backgrounds. Their unstinting efforts in support of adult education, during a period when it has been in marked decline, should be celebrated. That the Court found that the Office for Students acted unlawfully in refusing their registration raises urgent questions about the fairness of its processes and the effectiveness of its governance.
“Specialist independent providers like Bloomsbury Institute offer a singular focus on the needs of their specific student bodies. This naturally encourages innovation through different models of provision such as the four-year degree with integrated Foundation Year, which access professionals across the sector, and the OfS itself in May 2019, have found to be effective in supporting mature students back into higher education.
“The sector needs a regulator which takes the time to engage with and think deeply about the different types of provider it regulates, and adopts a genuinely supportive rather than adversarial approach to these differences. The OfS should use its powers as the Higher Education and Research Act intended, to actively support more innovation and not to hinder it.
“SME providers in particular require a far more sophisticated and contextual use of metrics, or they will always be at the mercy of fluctuations in data which go unnoticed at large universities. Just as part-time degrees clearly require their own baseline in order to be judged fairly, so too do Foundation Years and integrated degrees, other innovative courses involving accelerated or blended delivery, and indeed the Government’s new Higher Technical Qualifications. Without this level of regulatory nuance, Government will struggle to meet its ambitions for lifelong learning and social mobility across the country.
“Every student is different. Every student deserves a chance. Our higher education institutions, and the regulations that support them, must reflect this. The Government will be unable to achieve its levelling-up agenda, or deliver its ambitious and much-needed reforms to higher technical education, without regulations that recognise the unique value of different types of courses and provision. OfS must have the confidence to apply its rules in a flexible and proportionate manner if it is to be a regulator which supports the ambitions of every student and addresses the country’s urgent economic challenges. ”
- The Office for Students report on foundation year provision can be found here https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/preparing-for-degree-study/
- The Court of Appeal ruling can be found here: https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Judgment-Bloomsbury-Institute-Limited-v-Office-for-Students-C120200664.pdf
- IHE is a UK membership organisation and formal representative body which exists to support, develop and promote independent providers of higher education, professional training and pathways.
- IHE’s members include household names such as the Royal Academy and Le Cordon Bleu, long established independent colleges Spurgeon’s College and City & Guilds of London Art School, industry leading technical institutes Futureworks and Met Film School and global education pathway providers Kaplan and Study Group.
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- On 14th August 2020