New service for SME and specialist higher education providers

New service for SME and specialist higher education providers

New service for SME and specialist higher education providers launched at IHE Conference


The new Specialist Evidence, Evaluation and Research (SEER) collaborative service is designed to support micro, small and specialist higher education providers with access and participation regulation, required by the Office for Students (OfS). Provided by Applied Inspiration as part of their “Collaborative HE” agenda, this is the first collaborative service focused on data, evaluation and research for specialist, small and micro institutions. Independent Higher Education (IHE) is pleased to partner with Applied Inspiration in spearheading this initiative.

Access and Participation plans under the Office for Students require a considerable resource, much of which is specialist and complex. The OfS are firm in their expectation that providers adopt data-driven, evidence-based performance assessment and measures. Plans should be underpinned by robust evaluation and research and a rich evidence base drawn from internal and external (national) sources.

Drawing insight from IHE members during collaborative workshops in spring 2019, the SEER service is a provider-driven, practical approach to the challenges faced by providers with small staff teams in meeting OfS conditions related to access and participation. The model ensures providers can get the expert support they need to meet ambitious targets, while collaborating on central services which support the use of the data, evidence and evaluation of access and participation.

IHE are proud to have worked in partnership with Applied Inspiration to address the need for more support for micro, small and medium providers in access and participation planning and delivery.

Former Director of the Office for Fair Access, Professor Sir Les Ebdon, said:

“While Ministers might have intended the impact of the recent changes to higher education regulation to have been favourable to smaller and specialist providers, it certainly does not feel like this for these institutions. The myriad of regulatory requirements being thrown at providers are challenging.

Small and specialist institutions can reduce the burden by collaboration and scaling up by working together without losing independence and the launch of SEER enables just that. I am pleased to see an increasing number of providers journeying along a route I have long advocated.”

SEER provides top level expertise and service that ensures institutional priorities and OfS regulatory requirements can both be fulfilled, and added value is realised. The collective model provides an affordable service, with the benefit of a collaborative voice to the OfS and sector. Over time the emerging data and insights will provide an excellent evidence base, which will help to guide work on access and participation and inform the design of future policy and regulation.

Applied Inspiration’s Managing Director, and founder of SEER, Emma Thomas said:

“We have been concerned for a number of years that smaller and specialist providers have less resource, capacity and expertise to effectively respond to regulatory requirements. If we are to make a real difference in access and participation, focus must be on enabling institutions – not just on learners and their perceived disadvantages. Collaboration and scale is key, which is why we have responded to the small, specialist sector needs and launched SEER. I am delighted that it is providing an efficient and impactful service to those institutions needing support with a regulation system that is particularly challenging for them.”

IHE Chief Executive, Alex Proudfoot said:

“IHE welcomes the practical focus and collaborative approach of the SEER service. We have just launched our SME Manifesto for Higher Education and this service speaks directly to what SME providers need – organisations who will work closely with them to find a solution that delivers results. We are pleased to partner with Applied Inspiration to launch their new SEER service, for small, specialist and newly registering HE providers and we look forward to our continued collaboration.”



  1. 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.
  2. IHE’s 53 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.


    SEER is a collaborative HE service, providing a range of services relating to data, evaluation, research, monitoring and evidence-based story-telling and reporting focused on access and participation. It is provider driven and, as well as delivering services to all its individual providers, it has the added value of an emerging collective, evidence based and data-driven voice to inform the regulator and influence policy.

    The SEER service includes three work strands, which have been identified as particularly challenging for small providers to deliver independently:

    • Advice and development: strategy and compliance
    • Data collection, collation and analysis; targets
    • Research and evaluation

    SEER launched in 2019 specifically to support small, specialist and newly registering providers in the new era for access and participation.

    SEER is part of Applied Inspiration International Ltd –

    Mission: To support and enable small, specialist and newly registered higher education providers to:

    • Meet all regulatory requirements related to data, monitoring, evaluation and research, across the whole student lifecycle as agreed in institutional Access and Participation Plans
    • Ensure strategic and operational alignment across relevant activities and add value to broader institutional priorities (considering institutional return on investment, particularly in respect of recruitment and growth; student experience, teaching and learning; and, careers)
    • Be a credible, strong and evidence-based voice for their contexts to the OfS and in the broader sector; one that is capable of influencing policy, regulation and practice for small, specialist and new providers.
    • Identify opportunities for collaboration and leveraging shared resource


    Emma Thomas, Managing Director, Applied Inspiration

  • On 5th December 2019