Our strategy

Quality and standards

  1. Subject to the outcomes of our recent consultations, we plan to take a more robust approach to quality. We are introducing revised quality conditions that provide greater clarity about the minimum requirements that providers must meet.
  2. We will use the data and regulatory intelligence we hold to identify courses and providers that may not satisfy our regulatory requirements for quality. We expect this proactive approach to result in an increase in our investigative and enforcement activity from the first year of the strategy, with courses that do not meet our requirements being improved or closed.
  3. We will ensure that all providers satisfy our minimum requirements for student outcomes. Subject to the outcome of our recent consultation, we will identify priorities for enforcement activity and, where appropriate, we will investigate compliance concerns and use the full range of our powers to take action. We also plan to publish annual data that shows the outcomes delivered by each provider.
  4. We will report on our regulatory activity for individual providers and on wider themes relevant to all providers’ compliance.
  5. We will consider using small-scale regulatory ‘sandboxes’* for providers wishing to experiment in course design and delivery in a way that continues to satisfy our requirements.
  6. We will also drive improvement in the quality of undergraduate courses beyond our regulatory baseline by implementing the next iteration of the TEF scheme. Subject to the outcomes of our recent consultation, our initial focus will be on implementing the scheme; following implementation we will focus on increasing the influence of TEF ratings, to strengthen incentives for improvement across all providers.
  7. Towards the end of the strategic period, we will focus on promoting and improving comparable information about quality for the benefit of prospective students, which we expect will in turn further incentivise providers to improve as they seek to attract students.

* Here and throughout the strategy, regulatory ‘sandboxes’ refer to trials where the OfS would enable providers to test innovative new approaches.

  1. We will use the data and regulatory intelligence we hold to identify courses and providers that may not satisfy our regulatory requirements in relation to the rigour of their assessment and awarding practices. We expect this proactive approach to result in an increase in our investigative and enforcement activity from the first year of the strategy. We will address practices that do not meet our requirements to ensure public confidence in higher education qualifications.
  2. We will continue to consider the extent to which increases in degree classifications over time can be explained. We will focus investigatory and enforcement activity on cases where significant increases cannot be explained by our data analysis or other evidence.
  3. We will report on our regulatory activity for individual providers and on wider themes relevant to all providers’ compliance. We will consider using small-scale regulatory ‘sandboxes’ for providers wishing to experiment in assessment and awarding practices in a way that continues to satisfy our requirements.
  1. We will continue to be clear that all providers must secure academic freedom and free speech within the law, and that this requires them to take positive actions. In doing so they must give due regard to other legal obligations, such as the public sector equality duty, but these should not prevent action to secure free speech.
  2. We will respond to individual cases where a provider has failed to take steps to secure academic freedom and free speech, including where a provider’s approach has the effect of inhibiting the expression of minority, unpopular or controversial views. We will report our regulatory activity for individual providers to ensure that all providers understand what is expected of them.
  3. We will undertake any necessary investigatory and enforcement activity using our existing powers. Subject to parliament’s decisions, and any relevant legislation introduced, we will implement new policies and we expect this to include consultation during this strategic period. We expect our investigatory and enforcement activity to increase as any new powers are implemented.
  4. We will engage with students to help them to understand what free speech within the law means in the context of their higher education experience.
  1. Our regulation of quality will ensure that courses require students to develop the skills they need for success beyond higher education and that all providers satisfy our minimum requirements for progression of their students to professional employment or postgraduate study.
  2. Our approach to TEF assessments will incentivise providers to deliver courses that support progression of students to professional employment or postgraduate study beyond our minimum requirements.
  3. Our regulation of access and participation plans will ensure that providers take steps to address inequalities in relation to progression to professional employment or postgraduate study, for any student due to their background, location or characteristics.
  4. We will work with others across government to design, deliver and evaluate programmes to address current and anticipated skills shortages for business and public services locally and nationally.
Published 23 March 2022

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