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National Audit Office investigation into financial support for students at alternative HE providers

2 December 2014

Study UK, the leading association of independent education providers, welcomes the National Audit Office’s investigation into financial support for students at alternative higher education providers. 

Alternative Providers play a vital role in the UK higher education sector, offering excellent quality provision and opportunities to students who might otherwise not participate in higher education. Quality-assured, Government-designated HE courses form an important part of the broader provision available at Study UK members, who offer world-class tuition to a diverse range of quality students from the UK, EU and beyond.

As the NAO confirms, many new controls have been introduced in the short period of time covered by this report. Greater clarity in the setting and monitoring of standards has already been seen through the steps taken by regulators and providers, who have had to adjust rapidly to significant change, requiring new investment in systems and infrastructure, as well as staff re-training. Study UK has supported many providers through these changes, and continues to advise its members on compliance issues to ensure that practice and provision is of consistently high quality.

Alex Proudfoot, Association Manager, said: “Today’s report, along with research published yesterday by CentreForum, highlights the rapid growth of Alternative Providers and the positive contribution they make to the higher education landscape in offering quality and affordable tuition to a diverse group of students. There is now an urgent need for primary legislation to strengthen and consolidate recent piecemeal changes to higher education regulation. Study UK will continue to press all parties to support the drafting, debate and implementation of a higher education bill in the next parliament. New legislation will be key to ensuring that the regulatory system is fit for purpose, is built to meet the needs of a modern and heterogeneous HE sector, and effectively promotes competition between providers in the educational quality, innovation and value for money of their provision.”

The NAO report highlights the necessity of strong working relationships between Alternative Providers and regulators, relationships that Study UK has worked hard to build on behalf of its members. Study UK fully backs the Government’s work so far to prevent any misspending of public funds and also supports a comprehensive review of Student Loans Company processes to ensure that the necessary controls are in place to weed out any applications for support by ineligible students. 


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