Press Release: Independent Providers of Higher Education are ready to join Jo Johnson’s new Office for Students – The Independent Higher Education Survey 2017

Independent Providers of Higher Education are ready to join Jo Johnson’s new Office for Students – The Independent Higher Education Survey 2017

New report shares insights and perspectives on independent providers in higher education

Press Release date: 13.07.17

The first survey of independent providers of higher education since 2014 suggests that regardless of size, specialism or mission, independent providers are positive about the changes to be implemented as part of the Higher Education and Research Act.

The survey of 111 independent providers shows that the sector has not changed substantially since 2014, with providers remaining far smaller than their publicly funded counterparts, still industry focused, and delivering in specialist programmes through alternative models to the traditional three or four year undergraduate degree. The report provides insight into the shape and scale of the sector, and highlights where independent providers feel they will develop over the next five years.

Key findings include:

  • 55% are confident that the Higher Education and Research Act will create a better higher education system for their institution, and 64% plan to register with the Office for Students at either the Basic, Approved or Approved (fee cap) levels. 34% of those responding remained unsure what level they would enter but only 3% said they would not register with the Office for Students.
  • The majority of independent providers want to see the government address the different funding models across tertiary education with 50% supporting a single funding system across further and higher education, almost 60% supporting a funding model based on academic credit instead of academic year, and over 60% supporting a change in funding to support accelerated degrees.
  • Over 90% of those responding to the survey expected their UK student numbers would grow or stay the same, however 30% felt their EU student numbers would decline in the next year.
  • 22% of independent providers in the survey plan to apply for full Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) before 2020, and 22% are also considering single subject or level TDAPs.

Responses came from a diverse range of providers:

  • 73% of responding providers teach 1000 students or less across all programmes.
  • 57% of students at responding providers are from the UK, 17% are from the EU and 26% are from outside the EU.
  • 50% of the independent providers who responded offer part-time and flexible learning, 40% offer online, distance and blended learning opportunities, 16% offer accelerated degree programmes and 10% offer apprenticeships.

Responses to the survey came from those already designated for student support by the Department for Education (66%) or with a Tier 4 licence to teach international students (49%) as well as those not yet in regulation. The survey reached both members and non-members of Independent HE, with the report showing that members of Independent HE are twice as likely as non-members to have definitive responses to questions on changing regulation.

Alex Proudfoot, Chief Executive of Independent Higher Education, said:

“The Independent Higher Education Survey 2017 comes at an important time for the higher education sector. The last such attempt to understand the scope and scale of this fast-moving part of the education sector came in 2014, and externally much has changed since then.

“The findings confirm that the independent sector is diverse, offering a range of qualifications and courses in full-time, flexible and accelerated models. It is also a sector in flux, adapting to an almost constant state of change but ready to embrace the future the Higher Education and Research Act will usher in. Providers plan to take advantage of the opportunities in the Act, including the reforms to Degree Awarding Powers and the Register of Providers overseen by the new Office for Students.

“This is a sector of predominantly small and specialist institutions, with strengths of focus on specific industries and on widening participation in higher education. Student numbers have grown since regulation was introduced for access to student loans, and are expected to continue growing, albeit with more apprehension on what the future holds for EU students. Independent providers have the potential to be agents of great change in higher education, but will first need to navigate the extraordinary rate of change they themselves face as they integrate into the new higher education system.

“We intend to run the survey on an annual basis to help us capture this change, and adapt what we as an organisation do to meet the sector’s evolving needs. We hope this survey will prove a valuable tool not only for us, but for providers and policy makers alike.”

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For further information please contact:

Joy Elliott-Bowman, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Independent HE

Email:; Phone: 0207 6088453

Independent Higher Education is the UK membership organisation and national representative body for independent providers of higher education, professional training and pathways. Further information can be found at our website – We can also be found on Twitter @independent_HE.

The Independent Higher Education Survey 2017 was conducted in partnership with Hobsons. Hobsons works with higher education institutions and industry bodies to conduct market research, data analysis, digital marketing and a range of student recruitment services. For more information visit

  • On 13th July 2017