Conditions of Approval

The heart of the OfS regulatory framework is the Register and the initial and ongoing conditions of approval to be on it.  As OfS has gone through the process it has made a number of specific ongoing conditions on individual higher education providers, starting with the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Information on this process has been sparse, but in October 2019, OfS published a report on the registration process.

It is public information that the conditions have been imposed.  This is not the case with the 464 requirements for ‘enhanced monitoring’ that OfS reported it was undertaking on the 387 providers on the register.  However, the condition information has not been easily to hand – the register is still currently a spreadsheet and the conditions are only accessible through links in that spreadsheet.  The monthly regulatory bulletin does list conditions, but does not link to them. So, for my information, I pulled together a table and attached links to the full condition. This will also act as a historical list; the OfS register spreadsheet does not record conditions that have been removed. I will endeavour to keep this up-to-date*.

Provider   Summary of Condition Date
Oxford Brookes University (removed) A1 In accordance with the requirements … , the provider must conduct and complete, within the Relevant Timeframe, a robust and comprehensive assessment of its performance in relation to the “Underrepresented Groups” 31 December 2018
University of Bolton B3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set out … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas: …
(i) continuation rates for full-time first degree students
(ii) continuation rates for part-time other postgraduate and postgraduate taught masters students
(iii) completion rates for full-time undergraduate students
(iv) professional employment and progression to postgraduate study rates of PGCE students; and 
(b) ensure that the more recent levels of performance in the following indicators of student outcomes are permanently sustained …  
(i) continuation rates for full-time PGCE, other postgraduate, postgraduate taught masters and postgraduate research students
31 January 2019
London Metropolitan University B3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set out … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas: 
(i) Continuation rates for full-time first degree students and postgraduate research students;
(ii) Continuation rates for part-time other undergraduate, first degree and postgraduate taught masters students; 
(iii) Completion rates for full and part-time undergraduate students; and
(b) ensure that the more recent levels of performance in the following indicators of student outcomes are permanently sustained …
(i) Continuation rates for full-time other undergraduate and postgraduate taught masters students 
(ii) Professional employment and postgraduate progression rates for full-time first degree students.
31 January 2019
University of Cambridge (Removed) A1 The provider must comply with all of the following requirements:
a. it must conduct and complete, within the Relevant Timeframe, an evaluation of the impact of its financial support for students in accordance with the commitments of its Approved 2019-20 Access and Participation Plan; and
b. it must produce a report containing the results and outcomes of that evaluation (including, where applicable, any actions it intends to take) and submit the final and complete version of that report to the Director for Fair Access and Participation
28 February 2019
University of Oxford
(Removed)
A1 The provider must comply with all of the following requirements:
a. it must conduct and complete, within the Relevant Timeframe, an evaluation of the impact of its financial support for students in accordance with the commitments of its Approved 2019-20 Access and Participation Plan; and
b. it must produce a report containing the results and outcomes of that evaluation (including, where applicable, any actions it intends to take) and submit the final and complete version of that report to the Director for Fair Access and Participation
28 February 2019
United Colleges Group B3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set out … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) to deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas: 
(i)  Continuation rates for full-time other undergraduate students 
(ii)  Completion rates for full-time other undergraduate students
29 March 2019
Bradford College B3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set out … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
a. deliver a material improvement in student outcomes within two years (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas  
(i) Continuation rates for full time other undergraduate, PGCE students and postgraduate taught masters students  
(ii) Continuation rates for part time first degree students, other postgraduate students and postgraduate taught masters students.
(iii) Professional employment and post graduate progression rates for full time first degree and postgraduate taught masters students   
(iv) Professional employment and post graduate progression rates for part time first degree, other postgraduate and postgraduate taught masters students…
30 April 2019
Grimsby Institute B3 Following a review of the performance data for full time starters between 2011 and 2016 and for part time starters between 2010 and 2015, the provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set out … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:  
(a) deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas
(i) Continuation rates for full-time first degree and full-time PGCE students
(ii) Professional employment/postgraduate progression rates for full-time first degree students and full-time PGCE students  
(b) ensure that the more recent levels of performance in the following indicators of student outcomes are permanently sustained …
(i) Continuation rates for full-time other undergraduate and part-time PGCE students
30 April 2019
Blackburn College B3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set out in paragraph B3A.2 and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:  
(a) deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas  
(i)  Continuation rates for full-time other-undergraduate students;   
(ii) Continuation rates for full and part-time first degree students;  
(iii)  Completion rates for undergraduate students  
(iv) Professional employment or progression to postgraduate study rates for full-time first degree students; 
(v) Professional employment or progression to postgraduate study rates for full and part-time PGCE students; 
30 April 2019
Halesowen College B3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set out … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:  
(a) deliver a material improvement in student outcomes in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained in relation to the following areas:     
(i)  Continuation rates for other undergraduate students …
30 April 2019
Hopwood Hall College B3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set out in … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas: 
(i)  Continuation rates for full-time other undergraduate students
(b) ensure that the more recent levels of performance in the following indicators of student outcomes are permanently sustained …
(i) Continuation rates for part-time other undergraduate
30 April 2019
LTE Group The Manchester College UCEN Manchester Novus MOL Total People Limited Novus Cambria B3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS… which complies with the requirements set out … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:  
(a) deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas: 
(i) Continuation rates for full-time students studying at other undergraduate level;
(ii) Continuation rates for part-time students studying at other undergraduate level;
(iii) Continuation rates for part-time first degree students;
(iv) Professional employment and postgraduate progression rates for full-time first degree students.  
(b) ensure that the more recent levels of performance in the following indicators of student outcomes are permanently sustained…:
(i) Continuation rates for full-time first degree students   
30 April 2019
Aylesbury College B3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) to deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas: 
(i)     Continuation rates for full-time other undergraduate students;
(ii)    Professional employment or postgraduate study rates for full time first degree students. 
(iii)   Completion rates for undergraduate students
31 May 2019
City of Sunderland College B3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) to deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas: 
(i) Continuation rates for full-time undergraduate students
(ii) Completion rates for full-time undergraduate students
30 June 2019
Peterborough Regional College B3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set out … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:  
(a) to deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas: 
(i) Continuation rates for full-time other undergraduate students.
30 June 2019
NCH at Northeastern (removed) A1 NCH at Northeastern Limited must appoint an independent member, to the Fair Access and Participation Strategy Group (“FAPSG”) listed in the 2019-20 access and participation plan, who has expertise in access and participation within the higher education sector, (“the Representative”) … 30 June 2019
NCH at Northeastern (removed) A1 In accordance with the requirements …, NCH at Northeastern Limited must produce, within the Relevant Timeframe, as defined below, a robust and detailed evaluation strategy in relation to its access and participation work.  The evaluation strategy … must demonstrate:
(a) how the provider is developing effective and appropriate evaluation practices
(b) that the approach to evaluation informs access and participation practices across NCH at Northeastern Limited
(c) how the outcomes of NCH at Northeastern Limited evaluation(s) will influence practice within the institution and how this practice is shared across the sector
(d) an interaction between evidence-led practice and investment in access and participation measures
(e) that, in pursuit of the above, NCH at Northeastern Limited has had due regard to OfS good practice advice including but not limited to Regulatory Advice 6, as revised from time to time.
30 June 2019
NCH at Northeastern (Removed) A1 In accordance with the requirements …, NCH at Northeastern Limited must produce, within the Relevant Timeframe, a robust and detailed outreach strategy to support increased higher education participation at the institution of those from underrepresented groups.  The outreach strategy … must demonstrate:
(a) how NCH at Northeastern Limited will develop its understanding of effective activities, which demonstrate impact on improving participation at the institution of those from underrepresented groups
(b) how NCH at Northeastern Limited will use good practice published and shared from others in the sector
(c) how NCH at Northeastern Limited is developing its networks with others in the sector, including, but not limited to, higher education providers, third sector groups, schools, to inform and enhance collaborative practice
(d) a correlation between evidence-led practice, investment in access measures and increased higher education participation at the institution of those from underrepresented groups
(e) that, in pursuit of the above, NCH at Northeastern Limited has had due regard to OfS good practice advice including but not limited to Regulatory Advice 6, as revised from time to time.  
30 June 2019
Sandwell College B3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set out … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas:  
(i)  Continuation rates for full-time and part-time other undergraduate students.  
31 July 2019
Berkshire College of Agriculture B3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set out …  and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas: 
(i)  Continuation rates for full-time other undergraduate students.
31 July 2019
Trafford Colleges Group A1 We require you to submit a report to the Director for Fair Access and Participation setting out: 
a. the financial support that will be made available to underrepresented students across the provider;  
b. the criteria that will determine the allocation of that support, and how the financial support in which you are investing contributes to your strategy and goals; and
c. how and when in 2019-20 the provider will evaluate the impact of that support in helping to reduce the gaps in access, success and progression among your own students.  The report should also set out in detail how and when the financial support included in the plan will be communicated to students.  
31 July 2019
Trafford Colleges Group A1 We require you to provide a detailed plan setting out how the governing body will deliver its obligations in relation to monitoring and evaluation of the access and participation plan.  This plan must include a detailed and clear explanation of:
a. each of the steps the governing body intends to take to actively maintain oversight of the implementation and progress of your access and participation plan, including how and when students will continue to be consulted on the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the plan
b. how the governing body will make use of your monitoring and evaluation programme for 2019-20 including the mechanisms you have put in place to ensure that the outcomes of your evaluation will influence practice, both within your own organisation and across the sector
c. how, and when, the outcomes of your monitoring and evaluation programme will be used by your governing body to understand whether you will meet your short and longer term ambitions and goals. 
This plan should be provided to the Office for Students by noon on 30 September 2019 to provide assurance on the oversight of the 2019-20 plan and any subsequent plan.   
30 September 2019
South & City College, BirminghamB3The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas:
(i) Continuation rates for full-time ‘other undergraduate’ students
(b) ensure that the more recent levels of performance in the following indicators of student outcomes are permanently sustained … :
(i) Continuation rates for part-time ‘other undergraduate’ students
31 July 2019
Bishop Auckland College   B3The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) to deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas: 
(i) Continuation rates for full-time other undergraduate students;
31 August 2019
North Hertfordshire College B3Restrictions on increasing the number of students and higher education courses
General restriction on the number of students

The Provider must not Offer or enter into a contractual arrangement with any actual or prospective students for the provision by it (or any agents or subcontractors) of Higher Education Courses in a way that would exceed the Relevant Student Cap in any Academic Year.
Power of direction to prohibit additional and/or replacement higher education courses
This paragraph applies where the Provider is proposing to:
(a) terminate an Existing Higher Education Course and replace it by Offering a different Higher Education Course (‘Replacement Course’); and/or
(b) Offer an Additional Higher Education Course.
… the provider:
(a) must deliver a written notification to the Office for Students …; and
(b) must not, during the Relevant Period … Offer or enter into a contractual arrangement with any actual or prospective students for a Replacement Course and/or an Additional Higher Education Course.
North Hertfordshire College B3The provider must submit an action plan for approval by the OfS … which complies with the requirements set out … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) deliver successful student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas:
(i) Continuation rates for other undergraduate students;
31 August 2019
Royal Northern College of Music (Removed) E1 The provider must comply with all of the following requirements: 
(a) it must, within the Relevant Timeframe, make any revisions it considers are necessary to the Relevant Governing documents in order to ensure that they properly uphold the Public Interest Governance Principles; and
(b) it must submit the complete and final versions of all the Relevant Governing documents, along with a written explanation of any revisions made, to the OfS
01 September 2019
Burton and South Derbyshire College B3Restrictions on increasing the number of students and higher education courses
(wording as in North Herts College above)
Burton and South Derbyshire College B3The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS …, which complies with the requirements set out … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas:
i) Continuation rates for other undergraduate students
31 October 2019
Croydon CollegeB3Restrictions on increasing the number of students and higher education courses
(wording as in North Herts College above)
Croydon CollegeB3 The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS …, which complies with the requirements set out … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas:
(i) Continuation rates for first degree and other undergraduate students;
(ii) Professional employment or postgraduate study rates for first degree student
30 November 2019
Ealing, Hammersmith & West London CollegeRestrictions on increasing the number of students and higher education courses
(wording as in North Herts College above)
Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College The provider must submit an improvement plan for approval by the OfS …, which complies with the requirements set out … and specifies the actions that the provider intends to take in order to:
(a) deliver a material improvement in student outcomes (in a manner which is capable of being permanently sustained) in relation to the following areas:
(i) Continuation rates for other undergraduate students
Richmond, the American International University in London E2 The provider must comply with the following requirement:
(a) it must submit to English law and the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales in proceedings relating to its English higher education provision (including where this is provided by a subcontractor).  
 

OfS announces the removal of conditions in their monthly bulletin. Earlier FOI requests to Oxford and Cambridge for their reports responding to their conditions were refused because OfS are going to publish them. As it turns out, Cambridge has published their report. No details were provided on the removal of the E1 condition on the Royal Northern College of Music or the A1 conditions at NCH. By June 2020 the A1 condition for Oxford Brookes was removed, with their APP for 2020/21 to 2024/25 approved.

As the OfS are requiring similar improvement plans of providers, it seems likely that plans under B3 won’t be published at least until initial registration is complete to avoid any copying of successful ones. It is unlikely that OfS will confirm if a provider remains under ‘enhanced monitoring’. All of the providers with a time-bound condition should have submitted their improvement plans (some recent conditions were only published after the date by which they had to submit improvement plans).

So far conditions have only been imposed for three of the areas: A1 relating to an access and participation plan; B3 restrictions on student numbers; B3 student outcomes (with issues for continuation and completion rates and employability); and E1 governance and E2 jurisdiction.  There may yet be more conditions in different areas.   While these are all relating to initial registration, it should be expected that issues relating to the general conditions will emerge after the transition period.

B3 Student Outcome Conditions

Conditions under B3 are interesting as OfS state in the framework that they will be ‘judging whether a provider is delivering successful outcomes for all of its students’ through a range of student outcomes indicators. As seen in the table, B3 conditions are the most numerous and are fine grained between different aspects. They are also the most numerous cause of OfS refusing to register providers. A set of fictional B3 indicators were shown at SROC on 25 April but OfS have now released their baselines. Here are the baselines for the continuation indicator.

Level of study PhDPGTFirst DegreeOther UG
The indicator is not of concern if the proportion of the provider’s students who continue their studies is more than… 90%90%85%80%
The indicator may be of concern if the proportion of the provider’s students who continue their studies is between…80% & 90%80% & 90%75% & 80%70% & 80%
The indicator may be of significant concern if the proportion of the provider’s students who continue their studies is less than…80%80%75%70%

Furthermore, there may be a concern if a demographic group is particularly affected. The degree outcomes indicator is solely based around whether a group performs significantly worse than the overall institutional performance. We will need to return to the B3 condition, not least because it is subject to judicial review, focusing on the OfS decision that it is not benchmarked. OfS do say they take into account the “context of the provider”. There is a an interesting extra comment that OfS consider baselines “make generous allowance for differences between demographic groups and between providers” and that these will be reviewed. This can only mean they think B3 will be getting tougher in future.

Last updated 20 June 2020

*Yes, I really do need a better hobby.