Tending the flowers or slinging a six-shooter? The future shape of HE Regulation

Our session at the AHUA Spring Conference developed the overall theme of “Complexity in HE” by considering the future of HE regulation in England and Wales. We identified the fragmentation of regulation across those jurisdictions, evidenced most powerfully by the push towards legislation in Wales, and the lack of any political will to legislate in England.

The effect of the latter, as identified in the OFT’s recent report on higher education, is a complex yet incomplete regulatory framework built up of incremental, reactive and ad-hoc changes (a phenomenon previously described by Matthew Andrews of the AUA as “whack-a-mole” regulation). The inadequacy of the current regulatory framework appears to already have been demonstrated by the apparently unexpected, uncontrolled expansion of HNCs and HNDs at private providers. Other policy developments that, based on experiences elsewhere in the world, may throw up further regulatory “blind spots” include:

  • the proposed abolition of student number controls (which according to some commentators has in Australia led to concerns about quality) 
  • the potential challenges posed by rapid expansion of for-profit providers, as experienced in the US 

We reviewed the roles now played by various sector bodies such as HEFCE, HEFCW, QAA, OIA and OFFA, as well as more general “regulators” such as the UKVI and the ICO and considered the extent to which the roles of these bodies had expanded and evolved and the commensurate degree of influence they now played in the regulatory environment in which universities operated. We also considered the self-regulatory role of the CUC’s draft Revised Code.

We concluded by considering where regulatory gaps remained, canvassing the views of delegates. Areas of concern identified included: 

  • how to regulate private providers more effectively whilst ensuring competitive neutrality;
  • whether there is a risk of a “race to the bottom”;
  • the lack of any statutory underpinning;
  • the adequacy of regulation around University title and degree-awarding powers; and
  • the increasingly intrusive degree of both regulation and co-regulation/self-regulation in the sector.

The highlight of the event was, however, undoubtedly this kangaroo, which we happily reproduce here for the many delegates who commented favourably on it:

Smita Jamdar
Partner and Head of Education
For and on behalf of SGH Martineau LLP
DD: 0800 763 1332
M:  07909 925946
F: 0800 763 1732
International DD: +44 870 763 1332
E: smita.jamdar@sghmartineau.com
W: www.sghmartineau.com

From → General Interest

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