Monthly newsletter and roundup

Read our monthly newsletter and roundup of news, blog posts, reports and other web updates published on our site. Please click on the + sign for each month. (Each month is retrospective.)

Read the digital newsletter

A full list of what we published in September is below.


Highly selective universities must follow through on promises to improve access, regulator warns
Universities with the some of the highest entry requirements, including Oxford and Cambridge, have published ambitious new plans to improve access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Parents need more support to help their children make good decisions about university
New polling highlights common misconceptions held by parents of children who are currently making decisions about higher education.

Registration decision
The Office for Students has refused the registration application of Newham College of Further Education, following a rigorous process of assessment and evaluation.

Office for Students publishes data on changes in healthcare student numbers
The data breaks down the numbers of students starting nursing, midwifery, and allied health courses from 2016-17 to 2017-18.

Office for Students responds to HEPI report on racial inequalities
The Office for Students has responded to the Higher Education Policy Institute's report.

Better data can help close equality gaps
New experimental statistics on interactions between demographic characteristics could offer important insights on equality of opportunity for different groups of students.

Engaging students in knowledge exchange: £10 million ‘what works’ competition
Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore has announced a £10 million competition to help boost the benefits to students of getting involved in knowledge exchange activities.


Student engagement – you might not notice it, but it matters
OfS student panellist Sam Dedman discusses what student engagement is and how students can make an impact at a national level by taking part in our student engagement survey.

Putting student experiences at the forefront of higher education regulation
Cassie Agbehenu, our Student Engagement Manager, reflects on the development of the OfS's student engagement strategy.

The importance of information – a cautionary tale
Emma Maskell, our Head of Student Engagement and Information, reflects on her own, less-than-exemplary information experiences as a student and teacher.

The Office for Students’ new regulatory order
Susan Lapworth, our Director of Competition and Registration, describes arrangements for students at providers who have applied for registration but do not yet have a final decision.

Making a positive difference: Mature students and health education
Mature students are turning away from nursing and specialist healthcare courses. Ed Hughes discusses how we need to work together to make sure they're supported.


Higher Education Students Early Statistics survey 2019-20 (HESES19)
This document provides guidance on funding rules and definitions for the Higher Education Students Early Statistics (HESES) survey 2019-20, known as HESES19.

Forward look note to registered providers
An overview of OfS events, publications and data submission deadlines over the next six to eight months.

Medical and Dental Students survey 2019
The Medical and Dental Students survey 2019 (MDS19) asks higher education providers in the UK to provide data on the intake of medical and dental students in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years.

Other web updates

Data and analysis

Associations between characteristics of students (ABCS): experimental statistics and methodology

Changes in healthcare student numbers: analysis and interactive charts

Student numbers 2017-18: monthly update

Regulation and the Register

Guidance from government: supplementary guidance to the OfS

Monthly bulletin of regulatory activity: August 2019 bulletin

Refused registration decisions: Newham College

Student information and data

Discover Uni: new student information website

Unistats data: guide for providers updated

National Student Survey: frequently asked questions updated

Unistats widget: updated guidance for linking to Discover Uni

Disabled Students' Commission: information on the new strategic group

Student wellbeing and protection

Prevent: accountability and data returns 2019 - guidance and FAQs


TEF: Year Four workbooks and maps updated

Corporate updates

Deadlines, events and publications: upcoming OfS activities between September 2019 and April 2020

Transparency data: spending over £25,000 - August 2019

Transparency data: senior staff expenses 2019-20, Q1 data

OfS board: register of interests updated

Quality Assessment Committee: register of interests updated

Read the digital newsletter

A full list of what we published in August is below.


OfS responds to CMA statement on student debt sanctions
The Office for Students has welcomed the announcement from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that the University of Liverpool has changed its student debt penalty policy.

Students at the heart of our work
The OfS is inviting anyone with an interest in higher education to share their ideas on how we should engage students in our work.

Degree apprentices are positive about their career prospects, according to new exploratory research
New research looks at degree apprentices’ motivations for following the alternative route through higher education.

New team to help outreach partnerships find out what works
The OfS is funding a team to help universities and colleges around the country generate stronger evidence of the impact of their work to reach out to disadvantaged young people.

OfS receives full powers
The Office for Students' full powers came into force on 1 August.


Discovering Uni: planning your higher education journey
Emma Maskell, Head of Student Engagement and Information at the OfS, talks about our new student information website.

Motivating factors
Dr Brooke Storer-Church, Skills and Employability Manager at the OfS, discusses a new report on the motivations of degree apprentices.


Degree apprenticeships: Motivations research

Data collection to inform funding for 2020-21: Responses to feedback and confirmation of approach

Regulatory advice 8: Guidance for providers about condition of registration F1: transparency information (2018.52)
- updated to reflect minor changes 

Updates to web pages

Data and analysis

Data verification: sample data verification queries

ILR training webinar: questions and answers

ILR data checking tool: technical guidance released

HESA student data checking tool: technical guidance released

HESA alternative provider data checking tool: technical guidance released

Student numbers 2017-18: monthly update

Official statistics: statistics release schedule updated

HESES: seminar days - how to complete HESES tables for 2019-20:
Tuesday 10 September 2019 - London
Tuesday 1 October 2019 - London
Tuesday 8 October 2019 - Manchester

Regulation and the Register

Refused registration decisions: Spurgeon's College

Monthly bulletin of regulatory activity: July 2019 bulletin

Degree awarding powers: orders made by the OfS

About the OfS

Get involved: how should the OfS engage students in its work?

Our board and committees: scheme of delegation updated

OfS Directors: register of interests updated

Income and expenditure budgets: income and expenditure budgets for financial year 2019-20

Access and participation

Access and participation effective practice: supporting people with criminal convictions

Access and participation plans: fee limits for 2020-21

Student wellbeing and protection

Prevent: recording of accountability and data return evaluation webinar

Student information

Unistats: changes to the Unistats dataset and the replacement of the Unistats widget

Skills and employment

Events: Developing new conversion courses in data science and artificial intelligence

Other related updates

Charity Commission: updated guidance about exempt charities

Read the digital newsletter

A full list of what we published in July is below.


Student satisfaction rises but universities should do more to improve feedback
Students in the UK are more satisfied with their courses, according to this year’s National Student Survey (NSS). However, many universities and colleges still have plenty of room to improve.

OfS Annual report and accounts 2018-19
The Office for Students has published its 2018-19 annual report and accounts.

Bloomsbury Institute Limited
The Office for Students has refused the registration application of Bloomsbury Institute Limited, following a rigorous process of assessment and evaluation.

Statement on De Montfort University investigation
OfS statement on the formal investigation into matters at De Montfort University.

Office for Students responds to higher technical qualifications review
The OfS responds to the Secretary of State for Education’s announcement of a review of Level 4 and 5 qualifications.

New member applications open for UK Healthcare Education Advisory Committee
The OfS is seeking exceptional individuals with the expertise and vision to contribute to the development of healthcare education and research across the UK.

New OfS analysis shows continuing upward trend in award of top degrees
The Office for Students has updated its analysis on degree classifications, and finds that 13.9 percentage points of first class degrees awarded are unexplained.

Registration decisions
The Office for Students has refused the registration applications of ABI College Limited and Waltham Forest College, following a rigorous process of assessment and evaluation.


Getting to grips with grade inflation
Our director of competition and registration, Susan Lapworth, sets out the findings from our new report on degree classifications.

The Spice Girls are back and so is the NSS
Benjamin Hunt, student engagement adviser at the Office for Students, talks about the positive impact the National Student Survey can have on campus.


Annual report and accounts 2018-19
The report covers the OfS’s first year of operation, and our progress to date in delivering against our regulatory objectives.

Financial and student number data collection
Seeking views on the collection of data from registered providers.

Data collection to inform funding for 2020-21: Notification of changes
This document provides notification of changes that we intend to make to the collection of data to inform funding for 2020-21.

Analysis of degree classifications over time
Changes in graduate attainment from 2010-11 to 2017-18.

Findings of student learning gain research:
Independent evaluation of the OfS’s learning gain pilot projects
Independent research into the National Mixed Methodology Learning Gain project (NMMLGP)
Higher Education Learning Gain Analysis (HELGA)

2018-19 data checking tools
This document notifies providers of the forthcoming release of the Office for Students data checking tools.

Updates to web pages

Data and analysis

Official statistics: update to the access and participation dataset

Key performance measures: KPM 10 (students responding positively to the NSS question on overall satisfaction) updated

HEIFES18: frequently asked questions

HESES18: frequently asked questions

Student numbers: updated data

ILR training webinar: recording and slides


Monthly bulletin of regulatory activity: June 2019 bulletin

Access and participation

Effective practice: new guidance on student engagement and consultation

Skills and employment: note exploring links between access and participation and civic university agreements

About the OfS

Board papers: July 2019 board papers

Our board and committees: scheme of delegation updated

Remuneration and Nominations Committee: new independent member and register of interests

Provider Risk Committee: updated terms of reference

Transparency: business impact target reporting - summary statements

Transparency data: OfS spending over £25k - June 2019

Student information and data

Unistats: New training webinars for further education colleges

Funding and funded projects

Supporting mental health and wellbeing for postgraduate research students: details of funded projects

UK Healthcare Education Advisory Committee (UKHEAC): March 2019 minutes and advisory letters

Medical and dental target intakes: targets for 2019-20

Other related updates

TRAC: guidance for 2018-19 returns

Charity Commission: Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) setting out an agreement of the relationship between the Charity Commission and the Office for Students

Government guidance on leaving the EU: 
The government has updated its guidance to help the higher education sector prepare in the event of no deal being reached

Read the digital newsletter

A full list of what we published in June is below.


Innovation, partnership and data can help improve student mental health in new £14m drive
The scheme is designed to spark a step-change in mental health support across the sector.

‘Welcome progress’ but more to do to tackle hate crime and sexual harassment on campus
Universities must build on recent progress to ensure that all students can feel and be safe on campus.

Nicola Dandridge: fair access and good outcomes are not a zero sum game
Our chief executive, Nicola Dandridge writes for The Times.

Office for Students announces results of TEF 2019
This year’s TEF results have been published – focusing on excellence in teaching and student outcomes across higher education.

Monitoring report finds high compliance with Prevent duty
Evaluation of 2017-18 reports show universities and colleges are demonstrating due regard to the Prevent duty.

Virtual reality tool leads new drive to train next generation of health specialists
The tool is one of several innovative projects awarded funding by the Office for Students.


Student mental health: now is the time for change
PhD student Katie Tyrrell, a member of the OfS mental health Challenge Competition panel, talks about her personal and academic experience of mental ill-health.


OfS fees: Payment of annual OfS registration fees and initial fees: Technical guidance for providers (OfS 2019.23).

Evaluation of student safeguarding projects: Catalyst for change: Protecting students from hate crime, sexual violence and online harassment in higher education
Two independent evaluation reports from Advance HE and our summary of the progress made (OfS 2019.24).

Prevent evaluation report: Prevent monitoring accountability and data returns 2017-18: Evaluation report (OfS 2019.22).

National Collaborative Outreach Programme: Phase two guidance (OfS 2019.25)

Official statistics

Updated HESES/HEIFES survey data

TEF 2019 outcomes

Update to the access and participation dataset

Other web updates

Access and participation effective practice: new guidance on -

Access and participation: glossary

Conference on protecting students from hate crime and harassment: conference materials

Monthly bulletin of regulatory activity: May 2019 bulletin

National Student Survey 2018: new data visualisations

OfS Challenge Competition - achieving a step change in mental health outcomes for all students: details of funded projects

OfS student panel: minutes from the December 2018 meeting and updated terms of reference

Quality Assessment Committee: register of interests updated

Strategic Interventions in Health Education Disciplines (SIHED) challenge fund: second round of funded projects

Student numbers: updated data

Student safety and wellbeing: resources developed from the first two rounds of student safeguarding Catalyst funding

Supplementary guidance to the OfS from the Secretary of State for Education: guidance on the government’s priorities for our work

Transparency data:

Transparency return 2019: Attainment technical document

Read the digital newsletter

A full list of what we published in May is below.


OfS announces initial recurrent grants to providers for 2019-20
The Office for Students is funding higher education providers for teaching, outreach and to enable students to succeed.

No place like home – new fund to boost local graduate opportunities
The Office for Students has awarded £5.6 million to projects based in universities and colleges across England to boost opportunities for graduates who seek work close to home.

Radical changes needed to ensure university admissions identify potential, not just exam results
Young people from more advantaged neighbourhoods are still nearly six times more likely to attend the most selective universities in England despite a significant growth in the use of contextual offers.


In praise of POLAR
POLAR is, and will continue to be, a powerful tool in the drive for fairer access, argues OfS principal analyst Maggie Smart.

The graduate employment paradox – and how thinking locally might unlock it
Charlie Ball, from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, explains the effects of prevailing assumptions about students.

Building a ‘no excuses’ fair access culture: A personal and professional journey
Dr Kedra Bishop explains the University of Michigan's approach to access and participation.

Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not
The OfS's inaugural Insight event focused on access and participation, with experts drawn from a range of backgrounds sharing their expertise. OfS Director for Fair Access and Participation Chris Millward reflects on the day.


Insight brief: Contextual admissions: Promoting fairness and rethinking merit

Funding for providers: Guide to funding 2019-20 (OfS 2019.18)

Funding for providers: Recurrent funding for 2019-20 (OfS 2019.17)
Initial allocations of recurrent funding to higher education providers

Annual TRAC 2017-18: Sector summary and analysis by TRAC peer group (OfS 2019.21)

Also see: Annual TRAC 2017-18: Sector summary and analysis by TRAC peer group

Unistats 2019: Timetable and arrangements for the submission and publication of data (OfS 2019.19)

Preparing for degree study: Analysis of Access to Higher Education Diplomas and integrated foundation year courses (OfS 2019.20)

Updated guidance: Submitting the transparency return 2019 - updated to clarify that only UK-domiciled students should be included in the transparency return

Official statistics

Equality and diversity statistics

Access and participation: Updated dataset

Annual TRAC 2017-18: Sector summary and analysis by TRAC peer group

Also see: Analysis of TRAC 2017-18 sector aggregate data

OfS key performance measures: KPMs 1 and 2 updated

Other web updates

OfS Challenge Competition: Industrial Strategy and skills - Details of funded projects

Transparency return 2019: Data collection tool - compiles the aggregate data that providers are required to submit. Plus FAQs.

Data amendments: Updated information, including terms of reference and panel schedule

Annual TRAC data 2016-17: Analysis by TRAC peer group - revised statistics

Recurrent funding: Funding for 2019-20

Post-collection outputs: Updated technical documentation published for - ILR, HESA, HESA AP

Conditions of registration: Monitoring of registered providers

Data and analysis: Benchmarking - current approach, methodology and guiding principles

Unistats: Timetable for the 2019 Unistats data collection

Transparency: April's data on spending >25k

Read the digital newsletter

A full list of what we published in April is below.


Office for Students says higher education in ‘reasonable financial health’ but warns of ‘over-ambitious’ student number forecasts

Higher education in England is in reasonable financial health but universities and colleges should avoid over-ambitious student number forecasts in their future planning, the OfS warns in a new report.

Consultation on Quality Assurance Agency fees

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has published a consultation on the fees it will charge in its capacity as the designated quality body.

New guidance on university title applications

The Office for Students has published guidance setting out the process for English higher education providers that wish to use either ‘university college’ or ‘university’ title as part of their name.


Financial health: Financial sustainability of higher education providers in England (OfS 2019.14)

Independent research: Evaluation of a scheme to develop pilot engineering and computing conversion masters' courses

Regulatory advice 13: How to apply for university college and university title (OfS 2019.08)

Student information: Summary of OfS strategy on student information, advice and guidance (OfS 2019.15)

What we do: OfS Business plan 2019-20 (OfS 2019.16)

Official statistics

Access and participation: Update to dataset

HESES and HEIFES survey data: Update for 2018-19 academic year

Student numbers 2017-18: Data on the number of full-time equivalent higher education students at registered providers

Continuation and transfer rates: Latest data and findings on the study activity of full-time undergraduate students

Other updates

Prevent duty - Prevent review meetings: Webinar video - what to expect under PRM programme

Regulation: University title or university college title - information updated

Data: Post-collection outputs
Data from Individualised Learner Record (ILR) returns
Data from HESA student returns

Access and participation plans: 2020-21 webinar videos

  • Support for small, specialist and new providers
  • Target setting
  • Evaluation
  • Assessment of performance

Access and participation plans: Frequently asked questions updated

POLAR: Frequently asked questions created

OfS national conference on learning gain: Download conference materials

Board papers: 26 March 2019 meeting


Request to access your personal information: Updated Personal data request form

Read the digital newsletter

A full list of what we published in March is below.


Supporting students to succeed: OfS allocates £1.4 billion for 2019-20
The Office for Students is funding higher education providers for teaching, outreach and student success.

New data reveals university performance on access and student success
The new data shows where the gaps between the most and least advantaged groups of students lie.

Office for Students comments on latest HESA non-continuation data
The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has released data on how many students continue their courses.

Make degree apprenticeships a force for social mobility, says the Office for Students
Degree apprenticeships are growing significantly and offer a route to increased social mobility, but more work is needed to realise their potential.

Office for Students responds to HEPI policy note on the financial health of universities
The Office for Students responds to a new survey of student attitudes to the financial health of their university.


Evidence for impact on access and participation
We've issued our first guidance under our new approach to access and participation, setting out how we expect higher education providers to make a step change through the targets they set themselves and the activities they deliver.

Mental wellbeing: let’s find new ways to support students
When we talk with students about the issues that worry them most, mental health consistently tops the list.


Insight brief: Degree apprenticeships: A viable alternative?

National Student Survey: Publication of NSS 2019 data (OfS 2019.09)

Funding for 2019-20: Formula capital funding (OfS 2019.13)

Funding for 2019-20: Terms and conditions of funding (OfS 2019.12)

Funding for 2019-20: Outcomes of consultation on terms, conditions and methods (OfS 2019.10)

Funding for 2019-20: OfS board decisions (OfS 2019.11)

Transparency condition: Guidance for providers on submitting the transparency return 2019

Independent research: Research on recruitment of mature students to nursing, midwifery and allied health courses

Independent research: Understanding effective part-time provision for undergraduates from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds

Official statistics

Access and participation data dashboard

Update to OfS key performance measures:

Other updates

Student wellbeing and protection: Mental health information including resources

National Collaborative Outreach Programme: Two new case studies published

Financial sustainability: Report on understanding the impact of income cross-flows

Calculating student numbers: Overview of method and technical document updated

Transparency: Spending data, February 2019

Read the digital newsletter

A full list of what we published in February is below.


New ‘What Works’ centre to help universities cut equality gaps
A new independent centre funded by the Office for Students (OfS) is set to help universities meet challenging targets to eliminate equality gaps in higher education within 20 years.

OfS appoints new student panellists
Five new students will join our student panel for 2019.

OfS publishes first annual analysis of senior staff pay
Newly published data and analysis around senior pay can act as a benchmark, helping universities to reduce senior pay where necessary.

OfS comments on HESA widening participation performance indicators
HESA has released measures of how the UK higher education sector is performing.

New members sought for UK Healthcare Education Advisory Committee
The UK Healthcare Education Advisory Committee (UKHEAC) is looking for new members with the expertise and vision to contribute to the development of healthcare education and research across the UK.

Government guidance on leaving the EU
The government has published guidance to help the higher education sector prepare in the event of no deal being reached.


Independent research: Understanding and overcoming the challenges of ethnicity targeting 

National Collaborative Outreach Programme: Call for proposals to deliver phase two of the programme in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire (OfS 2019.01)

Funding for 2019-20: Consultation on terms and conditions and method (OfS 2019.02)

Regulatory notice 1: Access and participation plan guidance (OfS 2019.05)

Regulatory advice 6: How to prepare your access and participation plan - effective advice (OfS 2019.06)

Independent research: Standards of evidence and evaluating impact of outreach

Other updates

OfS board: Papers from meeting on 28 January 2019

HESES and HEIFES: Release of survey data relating to academic year 2018-19

Addressing barriers to student success: Case study from University of Leeds

Official statistics release: Senior staff remuneration

Read the newsletter

A full list of what we published in January is below.


Universities must avoid using unconditional offers to put pressure on students, says Office for Students
The Office for Students has warned universities and other higher education providers that indiscriminate use of unconditional offers is akin to pressure selling and could put them in breach of consumer law.

Independent reviewer of TEF asks for views
Dame Shirley Pearce, who is leading the independent review of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF), has invited views from all with an interest in the TEF.

We invited applications to our student panel
The panel advises the OfS, and ensures that students’ interests are reflected in everything we do.


Unconditional offers: Serving the interests of students?
The steep rise in the numbers of unconditional offers made by universities and colleges to students applying to study with them has come under the spotlight in recent months amid concerns that it is having a negative impact on students. 

Release of intake numbers from medical and dental survey (Official statistics)

Analysis of degree classifications over time (OfS 2018.54): Overview of populations added as supplementary information

Other updates

TEF Year Four: Metrics and contextual data published (Official statistics)

TEF Year Four: Data now includes participants from devolved administrations (Official statistics)

Data amendments: Error summary sheet for aggregate data updated

Regulatory notice diagrams: Visual summaries added for Regulatory notice 3 and Regulatory notice 4

Transparency: Data published for December 2018 (spending over £25,000)

Student panel: Meeting minutes published

Data amendment panel: Dates added for error submission and meeting of next panel

TEF Year Four: Training video added for provider submissions

Addressing barriers to student success: Case study from New College Durham

Read the newsletter

A full list of what we published in December is below.


Office for Students: universities must eliminate equality gaps

The Office for Students has challenged all universities to eliminate the gaps in access and student success within 20 years.

Office for Students calls for ideas to support innovation in healthcare education

The Office for Students is inviting funding bids from universities and colleges for innovative projects which will support and enhance provision in nursing, midwifery and allied health subjects.

Office for Students responds to UCAS end of cycle report

Chris Millward comments on slow progress in narrowing gaps in access to higher education.

Office for Students responds to Sutton Trust report: Access to advantage

Chris Millward responds to new research on gaps in equality of opportunity.


Engaging students in the TEF

Student representation and engagement is one of the most important, and most unique, concepts that we work with.


Analysis of degree classifications over time: Changes in graduate attainment (OfS 2018.54)

A new approach to regulating access and participation in English higher education: Consultation outcomes (OfS 2018.53)

Understanding the evaluation of access and participation outreach interventions for under-16-year-olds (Independent research)

Regulatory Advice 8: Guidance for providers about condition of registration F1: transparency information (OfS 2018.52)

Strategic interventions in health education disciplines 2019 challenge fund: Innovations in recruitment to and delivery of healthcare courses (OfS 2018.51)

Other updates

Our new approach to access and participation: Our approach and ambitions

Outreach interventions for under-16s: New guidance and development tool

Complaints and notifications: Process has been updated

Official statistics: HESES and HEIFES survey data relating to academic year 2018-19 will be released on 5 February 2019

NSS: Evaluating the updated survey

Data checking tools: Future releases page added

TEF Years Two and Three: Updates to TEF outcomes – merger added

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