About registration with the Office for Students

This guide is intended to support staff in marketing, recruitment and communications roles at higher education providers that are registered with the Office for Students (OfS).

What is the OfS?

The Office for Students is the regulator of English higher education.

What is a registered higher education provider?

A registered higher education provider is one that has been accepted onto the OfS Register of English higher education providers.

All registered providers are regulated by the OfS.

What being a registered higher education provider means

Being registered means a higher education provider has demonstrated to us that it:

  • provides well-designed courses that deliver a high-quality academic experience for all students
  • supports students from admission through to completion
  • ensures students’ outcomes are valued by employers or enable further study
  • awards qualifications that hold their value over time, in line with recognised standards
  • pays regard to guidance about how to comply with consumer protection law
  • has a published student protection plan setting out the risks of course, campus or provider closure and how it will protect students’ interests in such an event
  • has the financial resources to provide and deliver the courses advertised
  • has the management and governance arrangements necessary to provide and deliver the courses advertised.

Some providers must also show us that they are taking steps to improve access and outcomes for students from underrepresented groups.

These requirements are called 'conditions of registration'.

Should a registered provider seem at risk of failing to continue meeting any of its conditions of registration, we will intervene to protect students’ interests.

Why do higher education providers register with the OfS?

Registering enables providers to do certain things. For example:

  • access public grants, such as government funding for teaching or research
  • access student support funding (in other words, its students can get government loans)
  • apply for or maintain a licence to recruit international students
  • apply for the right to award its own degrees
  • apply for the right to call itself a university.

Some types of registration enable the provider’s students to access higher tuition fee loans than others.

See full details of the benefits that providers get through registration.

Of course, there will be many reasons why a higher education provider chooses to apply for registration and these will vary for each. Your own colleagues will be best placed to advise on what motivated your organisation/company to register.

Do all higher education providers have to register with OfS?

No. Registration is voluntary and organisations/companies may provide higher education courses without registering.

However, those who do not register cannot access any of the benefits of registration listed above. They are not regulated by the OfS and their students cannot get government-backed loans.

How to talk about your registration

You are welcome to publicise your registered status if you wish to do so, for example in recruitment and marketing material, on your website, or in the media.

You may also remove any caveats you have previously included in advertising material about access to the student support system for students beginning courses in 2019-20.

We have created a suite of social media assets that we are happy for you to use, if you wish, to publicise your successful registration. You are, of course, welcome to create your own.

Download social media assets (zip file)

You may also wish to use the following text on social media:

Please note the following provisions and that making misleading or unauthorised claims about the status and effect of being registered could breach the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008:

Registered provider status is not a quality kitemark or an award.

It should not be described as such or used in a way that suggests this.

Registration demonstrates that a provider has met a set of baseline requirements, but is not a measure of the quality of provision.

Registered provider status is not a competitive advantage.

Any English higher education provider can apply for registration at any time. So, if a provider is not on the Register, you should not draw conclusions about it based on that fact, or encourage others to do so. It may have applied for registration and be awaiting a decision. It may have applied and been refused registration. It may have chosen not to apply. It may apply in future.

You should not use your registration status for competitive advantage, for example by claiming that it is a mark of excellence that other providers do not yet hold.

The OfS will not provide quotes or other endorsements for use by individual providers about their registered status.

It would be inappropriate for us to appear to single out individual providers for endorsement when all registered providers have met the same requirements.

It is your responsibility to ensure you communicate accurately about registration and manage reputational risk relating to registration.

The OfS may publish information about its regulatory decisions, interventions or sanctions with regard to your organisation/company on the Register, and in some cases we may issue a press release or otherwise inform the media.

We will inform the chair of your governing body and your accountable officer in advance of taking such action.

In some cases, we may publicise interventions or registration changes more widely, for example to the press, and we will consider on a case-by-case basis whether it is appropriate to give advance notice of that wider publicity.

If you have questions

For any queries about communicating externally about registration, or if you wish to seek permission to use the OfS brand in communications, please contact the OfS communications team on [email protected].

For queries relating to the process of registration application, assessment and monitoring, please contact [email protected].

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