Our response to coronavirus
During the coronavirus pandemic, the Office for Students is acting flexibly and responsively to protect the quality of teaching for students and enable the financial sustainability of the sector.
We have adapted our regulatory approach to assist providers as they work to protect their students during this time, in particular those students who may be most vulnerable to the disruption.
We have rapidly refocused our regulatory framework on core requirements needed to do this whilst reducing regulatory burden for providers.
Our new approach is supported by new guidance – on maintaining teaching quality and standards, exams and assessment, and fair admissions – and we consulted on a new time-limited condition of registration to support the stability and integrity of our higher education system.
We communicate regularly updated information to address providers’ questions and reassure current and prospective students.
Once we start to move from the lockdown our goal will be to minimise long-run disruption to the English higher education system – reducing permanent damage and laying the foundations for the sector to recover as quickly as possible.
What have we done?
In practice this has meant that we have:
- Written regularly to all vice-chancellors and accountable officers starting in mid-March when we outlined our planned approach to coronavirus (COVID-19) with providers, temporarily reducing reporting requirements and pausing consultations.
- Published new guidance for providers on a reduced requirement for reportable events during the pandemic.
- Introduced named contacts for providers and encouraged greater use of a helpline and email address for provider questions.
- Published new guidance to ensure that students continue to receive good teaching and assessment from their provider, as well as the appropriate qualifications.
- Worked with the DfE and the sector to introduce a six-week moratorium on unconditional offers and other changed offers to protect students’ interests.
- Provided advice to DfE on the financial stability of providers to help with funding decisions by them and the Treasury.
- Introduced a time-limited condition of registration which allows us to take action against higher education providers that use some offer-making practices which we consider would not be in students’ interests.
- Consulted on a new targeted condition of registration which would allow us to intervene more quickly if a provider is at material risk of closure.
- Created a new section for students and providers on the OfS website with new and regularly updated questions and answers.
- Created new briefing notes on issues of concern to students at this time including on student accommodation, mental health, and care leavers.
- Created a new section on Discover Uni with regularly updated information and links for prospective students and applicants.
- Refocused the UniConnect network on providing online and telephone support to school age students on their higher education options, while reaffirming our expectations for improved access and participation in line with providers’ plans.
- Published case studies which show some of the ways universities, colleges and others are supporting the needs of their students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last updated 01 October 2020 + show all updates
01 October 2020
- Content updated to reflect recent activity
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