Experimental official statistic

Key performance measure 26

Regulatory burden

The OfS is making progress in minimising regulatory burden.

The OfS regulates higher education providers. We require providers on our register to do certain things. This is regulatory burden. We aim to minimise this burden.

We want to track regulatory burden so we can reduce it. However, we do not want to reduce it too much. This would mean too little protection for students and taxpayers.

For any regulator, measuring burden is difficult. However, the OfS must understand how we affect registered providers. This allows us to be an efficient and effective regulator.

Our approach to monitoring burden is experimental. It may need to evolve to align with our regulatory approach.

How does the OfS measure regulatory burden?

We publish five quantitative measures under KPM 26. These monitor five activities that cause regulatory burden for providers:

  1. Submitting data and information.
  2. Complying with enhanced monitoring requirements.
  3. Developing and agreeing access and participation plans.
  4. Understanding our regulatory approach.
  5. Paying regulatory fees.

Providers incur costs when carrying out the activities listed above. These costs are ‘administrative burdens’.

Measuring administrative burdens directly would require detailed studies. These would involve additional costs and burden for providers.

For this reason, we use indirect measures. These use data we hold about our interactions with providers. Paying regulatory fees is an administrative cost for providers. We can measure this directly.

These measures are not designed to assess ‘substantive burdens’. Providers incur costs to deliver core activities to meet OfS conditions of registration. For example, running well-designed courses or achieving access and participation targets. These costs are 'substantive burdens'.

We do not monitor substantive burdens under key performance measure 26. We think these costs are necessary for high quality higher education. However, we do consider substantive burdens for providers when we change our regulation.
The measures do not consider the benefits of our regulation to students and taxpayers.

It may be appropriate for us to increase regulatory burden for providers. This may be required to protect the benefits for students and taxpayers.
Therefore, it is not appropriate to set targets for the levels of burden we impose.

The measures do not assess the burden for providers of the registration process. This is because the initial registration process has concluded. Far fewer providers are now applying for registration.

The registration process involves challenging requirements for providers. They need to demonstrate that they meet our conditions. This is necessary to protect students and taxpayers. However, we seek to minimise the burden of the registration process.

The measures presented here are experimental. They are new and will undergo further evaluation.

We may need to amend or replace these measures. This may be required if our regulatory approach changes.

The OfS also reports on regulatory burden via the Business Impact Target (BIT). We are required to assess the impact of significant regulatory changes and publish our findings.

Get the data

 


Submitting data and information

Minimum and maximum number of OfS data and information returns for registered providers

Providers submitted between four and sixteen OfS data and information returns for 2021-22

What does this show?

This measure counts the number of routine data and information returns that providers must submit. This includes returns to the OfS, the designated data body or the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

The measure shows the maximum and minimum number of returns providers must submit. It gives figures for providers in both categories of registration – Approved and Approved (fee cap).

The data and information that providers submit is essential to OfS regulation. However, collecting and submitting this information is an administrative burden for providers.

The actual burden related to each return differs depending on the information collected. This measure does not consider the volume and complexity of the information in each return.

Each data and information return carries costs for providers. Counting these returns is an indicative measure of this administrative burden.

Providers in the two categories on the OfS Register are subject to different levels of regulation. Approved (fee cap) providers submit more information to the OfS. This is to provide accountability for the public money they receive and the higher tuition fees they can charge.

The measure shows that for 2021-22, the maximum number of returns a registered provider had to make was 16. There was no change from the year before. The minimum number of returns was four again, the same as the previous year.

About the measure

This measure includes all routine data and information returns required of registered providers.

Different providers must submit different returns. The number of returns depends on a provider's registration category and several other factors.

The minimum number of returns counts the returns that all providers submitted.

The maximum number of returns counts the returns that at least some providers submitted.

We have changed our methodology for calculating this measure.

Background data and further information about our methodology is available. This is in the Excel file that can be downloaded above.

 


Complying with enhanced monitoring requirements

Average number of OfS conditions of registration subject to enhanced monitoring per registered provider

Providers had an average of one condition of registration subject to enhanced monitoring in November 2020.

What does this show?

This measure counts the conditions of registration that are subject to enhanced monitoring for each provider. It then divides this by the total number of registered providers.

Enhanced monitoring often means that the OfS requires more frequent or detailed information from a provider. This allows us to protect the interests of students and taxpayers.

We apply enhanced monitoring requirements to one or more conditions of registration for a provider. For example, if a provider’s financial sustainability is at risk, we may impose enhanced monitoring requirements in relation to condition D (financial viability and sustainability). We might require the provider to submit additional information about its finances.

Enhanced monitoring requirements increase administrative burden for a provider. Counting the conditions that have enhanced monitoring in place measures this burden.

The measure shows levels of enhanced monitoring at two points in time – in March and November 2020. During this time, we removed some enhanced monitoring requirements that we imposed when first registering providers.

The measure shows that in November 2020, the average number of conditions per provider with enhanced monitoring was one. This was a reduction from 1.2 measured in March 2020.

We remain committed to reducing our use of enhanced monitoring to reflect a more established regulatory environment. We are conducting an exercise to review and, where appropriate, remove enhanced monitoring for individual providers.

For example, we have recently removed over 100 instances of enhanced monitoring that had been imposed in relation to condition A1. Early next year when this exercise has concluded, we will update this measure.

About the measure

This measure includes all instances of enhanced monitoring across registered providers.

Background data and further information about our methodology is available. This is in the Excel file that can be downloaded above.

 


Developing and agreeing access and participation plans

Percentage of registered providers in the Approved (fee cap) category, and subject to higher fee limit, that submitted and gained approval for a new access and participation plan

Less than 5 per cent of providers subject to the higher fee limit had to seek approval for new access and participation plans for 2021-22.

What does this show?

This measure shows the percentage of relevant providers that had a new access and participation plan approved by the OfS.

Eligible providers are those in the Approved (fee cap) category that charge higher level tuition fees. These providers must have an approved access and participation plan.

Access and participation plans set out how providers will improve equality of opportunity. Providers must show how they will improve access, success and progression for underrepresented groups.

However, gaining approval for a plan represents administrative burden for providers. The measure shows that for 2021-22, only 4.8 per cent of relevant providers had to agree new access and participation plans. This was a decrease from 2019-20 and 2020-21 when all relevant providers agreed a new plan. 

This reduction in burden is the result of our changed approach to access and participation plans.

For 2020-21, providers were able to agree plans of up to five years in duration. Therefore from now on, not all providers will need to agree new plans each year.

About the measure

This measure includes all access and participation plans agreed with relevant providers.

Plans submitted by providers but not required or approved are excluded from the data.

Background data and further information about our methodology is available. This is in the Excel file that can be downloaded above.

 


Understanding our regulatory approach

Number, word count and readability of OfS regulatory documents

The OfS published almost 600,000 words in regulatory documents in 2020-21. Over 60 per cent of these documents met our readability target.

What does this show?

This measure counts the number of regulatory documents the OfS publishes. It gives a total word count for these documents. It also gives a total word count for the documents that meet our readability target.

Regulatory documents are those that tell providers about our regulatory requirements.

We measure readability using the Flesch Reading Ease formula. This calculates a score, based on sentence and word length, between 1 and 100. A document with a higher score is more readable.

The OfS must tell providers about our regulatory requirements. Reading and understanding these documents is essential for providers to meet our requirements. However, doing so represents administrative burden for providers.

Regulatory documents often need to convey complex information. We aim to publish documents with a Flesch Reading Ease score of at least 40. However, this may not always be possible.

The measure shows that OfS regulatory documents contained almost 600,000 words in 2020-21. Over 60 per cent of these documents met our readability target.

We published fewer regulatory documents in 2020-21 than in the previous year. However, these documents were longer than previously. This is because we have been consulting on various changes to our approach to regulating and funding providers. Consultations require lengthy documents to set out our proposals and rationale clearly and comprehensively.

We expect to publish fewer and shorter regulatory documents in the future. This will depend on any changes we decide to make to our regulatory approach.

About the measure

This measure includes all documents that tell providers about our regulatory requirements. These are counted in the academic year in which they are published (1 August to 31 July each year).

The OfS began releasing regulatory documents on 28 February 2018. The data for 2017-18 covers the five months from this date to the end of July 2018.

Background data and further information about our methodology is available. This is in the Excel file that can be downloaded above.

 


Paying regulatory fees

Regulatory fees paid by registered providers per student

Providers paid an average of under £20 per student to be registered with the OfS in 2019-20.

What does this show?

This measure adds up the total regulatory fees that providers pay to the OfS, HESA and QAA each year. It then divides this by the total number of students at those providers.

OfS registration fees fund our work protecting the interests of students and taxpayers. HESA is our designated data body. QAA is our designated quality body. Their regulatory fees cover the costs of the services they provide on behalf of the OfS.

While these fees represent the price of operating in a regulated sector, they impose an administrative cost on providers.

The measure shows that providers registered in 2019-20 paid an average of £19.98 per student in regulatory fees. We will publish further measurements annually.

We have committed to reducing OfS registration fees. Over the next two years, we will reduce the level paid within each fee band. By 2022-23, these fees will be 10 per cent lower in real terms.

The level of fees captured in this measure will reduce by a similar amount. However, the reduction is unlikely to be exactly 10 per cent. This is because this measure is calculated in a different way to our actual fee charges.

We have a responsibility to use the fees we receive as economically, efficiently and effectively as possible. We publish an annual report on how we ensure value for money within the OfS.

About the measure

The measure includes all providers registered in the academic year 2019-20 (1 August 2019 to 31 July 2020).

It includes OfS registration fees and all HESA and QAA fees related to registration with the OfS.

We will update this measure next year.

Background data and further information about our methodology is available. This is in the Excel file that can be downloaded above.

Feedback

If you have any queries about the statistics published in KPM 26, please contact Hannah Stokes at [email protected].

If you have any queries about our overall approach or on individual measures in KPM 26, please contact Matt Davey at [email protected].

Published 18 May 2021
Last updated 16 November 2021
16 November 2021
Data updated
23 August 2021
Spreadsheet updated with small data adjustment

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