Refused registration decisions

This page sets out details of higher education providers which have been refused registration by the Office for Students, and a summary of the reasons for the refusal.

ABI College Limited’s application for registration has been refused.

This is because the Office for Students has decided that ABI College does not satisfy the following initial conditions of registration:

  • Condition B3 – Quality
  • Condition C1 – Guidance on consumer protection law
  • Condition C3 – Student protection plan
  • Condition D – Financial viability and sustainability
  • Condition E1 – Public interest governance
  • Condition E2 – Management and governance.

A summary of our reasons are set out below:

Initial condition Summary of reasons
B3: Quality The OfS takes the view that the college’s continuation rate data (evidencing the number of students who continue from the first into the second year of study) shows that the college has failed to demonstrate that it delivers successful outcomes for all of its higher education students, which are recognised and valued by employers and/or enable further study for all of its students.
C1: Guidance on consumer protection law The OfS takes the view that a number of the terms in the college’s contract with students are so inconsistent with consumer protection law that, objectively, the OfS does not consider that the evidence demonstrates that the college has had regard to relevant consumer protection law guidance when these terms were written, as required by condition C1. As a result, there is a risk that unclear or misleading information may be published for students.
C3: Student protection plan

The OfS takes the view that it would not approve the draft student protection plan submitted by the college as part of its application for registration.

The OfS considers that the plan is not approvable as it does not credibly assess the risks to continuation of study for the college’s students. In particular, the draft student protection plan states that the risk of non-continuation of study for the provider’s students arising from failures to meet external regulatory requirements is low. The OfS notes that this draft plan was submitted twelve days after the college received a notice from the Department for Education because the Department’s view was that the college may not have been meeting regulatory requirements.

The OfS also takes the view that the actions set out in the draft plan to mitigate the risk to continuation of study, and the refund and compensation policy set out in the draft plan, are insufficient. The student protection plan submitted by the provider would therefore not offer sufficient protection to students for the risks identified by the OfS.

D: Financial viability and sustainability

The OfS takes the view that the provider is at material risk of insolvency in the next twelve months as it is likely to receive very significantly reduced student fee income because its courses are not designated for student support by the Secretary of State for Education. In addition, the provider’s cash reserves are smaller than its forecast expenditure for the year.

The OfS also notes that the likely reduction in cash reserves as a result of loss of fee income will reduce the provider's net total assets and as such it is the OfS’s view that the college is unlikely to have sufficient financial resources to operate in accordance with its plans and projections for the next five years.

E1: Public interest governance

The OfS takes the view that the provider’s governing documents do not demonstrate that the following public interest governance principles are upheld:

  1. Accountability: The provider operates openly, honestly, accountably and with integrity and demonstrates the values appropriate to be recognised as an English higher education provider.
  2. Value for money: The governing body ensures that there are adequate and effective arrangements in place to provide transparency about value for money for all students and (where a provider has access to the student support system or to grant funding) for taxpayers.
  3. Governing body: The size, composition, diversity, skills mix, and terms of office of the governing body is appropriate for the nature, scale and complexity of the provider.
E2: Management and governance

The OfS takes the view that there is a lack of clarity and evidence in relation to the design and operation of the college’s management and governance arrangements which means that there is insufficient evidence to determine that the college can satisfy this condition.

This means that the OfS cannot be assured that the college’s management and governance arrangements are adequate and effective.

Acculearn Training Limited’s application for registration was refused by the OfS on 23 December 2019.

This was because the Office for Students decided that Acculearn Training Limited did not satisfy the following initial condition of registration:

Initial condition C3: Student protection plan

Summary of reasons:

The OfS has not approved the draft student protection plan submitted by the provider as part of its application for registration.

This is because the OfS considers that the mitigations in the provider’s student protection plan are inadequate to the risks identified by the provider and by the OfS. The student protection plan does not provide a credible and evidence-based assessment of the financial viability and sustainability risks faced by the provider, or the associated risks to the continuation of study for its higher education students.

On the basis of the OfS’s assessment of the provider’s financial viability and sustainability, the OfS does not have confidence that the provider has sufficient resources to refund or compensate higher education students.

Initial condition D: Financial viability and sustainability

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the provider is at a material risk of insolvency within the next three years. There is currently insufficient cash inflow to support the provider’s operations and insufficient cash to meet its immediate needs. Surpluses have fallen to a low level and so there is a lack of funds to cover operations, and total assets remain very low, so there is no cushion against ongoing adverse performance. The provider has forecast improved financial performance on the basis of increased student numbers but the OfS considers this to be overly optimistic and without evidence to support the assumptions. As such it is the OfS’s view that the provider is unlikely to have sufficient financial resources to operate in accordance with its plans and projections for the next five years.

Initial condition E1: Public interest governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the provider’s governing documents do not demonstrate that the following public interest governance principles are upheld:

  1. Student engagement: The governing body ensures that all students have opportunities to engage with the governance of the provider, and that this allows for a range of perspectives to have influence.
  2. Academic governance: The governing body receives and tests assurance that academic governance is adequate and effective through explicit protocols with the senate/academic board (or equivalent).
  3. Risk management: The provider operates comprehensive corporate risk management and control arrangements (including for academic risk) to ensure the sustainability of the provider’s operations, and its ability to continue to comply with all of its conditions of registration.
  4. Value for money: The governing body ensures that there are adequate and effective arrangements in place to provide transparency about value for money for all students and (where a provider has access to the student support system or to grant funding) for taxpayers.
  5. Freedom of speech: The governing body takes such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured within the provider.

Initial condition E2: Management and governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that that there is not credible evidence to demonstrate that management and governance arrangements are adequate and effective.

There is insufficient evidence that the public interest governance principles are upheld in governing documents, and therefore the OfS does not have sufficient assurance that the provider can deliver those principles in practice. There is a lack of detail and specificity in the terms of reference of various committees and this means that the provider has not demonstrated that arrangements are adequate and effective.

There were errors and inconsistencies in the information submitted by the provider in its application for registration and this raises concerns about the credibility of its financial forecasts. In the OfS’s view, the lack of credibility in the provider’s financial forecasts also raises concerns about the adequacy and effectiveness of its management and governance arrangements as it suggests that the governing body is not providing sufficient challenge on issues that are material to the credibility of the provider’s financial strategy and performance. It also raises concerns about the effectiveness of the governing body's oversight of regulatory compliance.

Further information

The OfS did not reach a decision about whether some of the other initial conditions were satisfied. These were:

  • Initial conditions B1, B2, B4 and B5: Quality and standards

A decision about these conditions was not made because the OfS judged that the outcomes from a Quality and Standards Review would be necessary to reach a decision. The OfS took the view that gathering and assessing this evidence would not have been proportionate in circumstances in which four initial conditions were not satisfied and the provider could not therefore be registered.

The fact that the OfS did not reach a decision for these initial conditions is neither a negative nor positive judgement about the provider.

AWA Business School Limited’s application for registration was refused by the Office for Students on 14 May 2020.

This was because the OfS decided that AWA Business School Limited did not satisfy the following initial conditions of registration:

Initial condition C3: Student protection plan

Summary of reasons:

The OfS has not approved the draft student protection plan submitted by the provider as part of its application for registration.

This is because the OfS takes the view that the plan does not set out a full assessment of the risks to continuation of study for the provider’s higher education students and lacks detail and clarity in relation to the mitigations in place. The refund and compensation policy does not address compensation where it is not possible for the provider to preserve the continuation of study.

Given the OfS’s findings in relation to the provider’s financial viability and sustainability the OfS does not have confidence that the provider has sufficient financial resources to refund or compensate students in the event that the plan has to be implemented. The mitigations in the plan are considered inadequate to the risks identified by the OfS.

Initial condition D: Financial viability and sustainability

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the provider’s financial forecasts are not credible and there are concerns about its financial viability. There are also concerns about the accuracy of financial information submitted during the registration process and lack of evidence to demonstrate that any market research has been undertaken to support the assumptions made in relation to student number forecasts.

The provider’s business plan does not provide additional commentary in support of the assumptions made in the financial tables.

Initial condition E1: Public interest governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the provider’s governing documents do not demonstrate that the following public interest governance principles are upheld:

  1. Accountability: The provider operates openly, honestly, accountably and with integrity and demonstrates the values appropriate to be recognised as an English higher education provider.
  2. Student engagement: The governing body ensures that all students have opportunities to engage with the governance of the provider, and that this allows for a range of perspectives to have influence.
  3. Academic governance: The governing body receives and tests assurance that academic governance is adequate and effective through explicit protocols with the senate/academic board (or equivalent).
  4. Risk management: The provider operates comprehensive corporate risk management and control arrangements (including for academic risk) to ensure the sustainability of the provider’s operations, and its ability to continue to comply with all of its conditions of registration.
  5. Value for money: The governing body ensures that there are adequate and effective arrangements in place to provide transparency about value for money for all students and (where a provider has access to the student support system or to grant funding) for taxpayers.
  6. Governing body: The size, composition, diversity, skills mix, and terms of office of the governing body is appropriate for the nature, scale and complexity of the provider.
  7. Fit and proper: Members of the governing body, those with senior management responsibilities, and individuals exercising control or significant influence over the provider, are fit and proper persons.
  8. Independent members of the governing body: There must be at least one external member of the governing body who is independent of the provider, and whose term of office is normally limited to a maximum of three terms of three years or two terms of four years. For providers with large governing bodies, or more complex legal forms, additional independent members may be appropriate.
  9. Regularity, propriety and value for money: The governing body ensures that there are adequate and effective arrangements in place to ensure public funds are managed appropriately, in line with the conditions of grant and the principles of regularity, propriety and value for money, and to protect the interests of taxpayers and other stakeholders. This also applies to any funds passed to another entity for the provision of facilities or learning and teaching, or for research to be undertaken.

Initial condition E2: Management and governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the provider does not have in place adequate and effective management and governance arrangements and so cannot demonstrate that condition E2 is satisfied.

A lack of cogent evidence to demonstrate that the provider’s governing documents uphold the public interest governance principles strongly suggests that these principles would not be delivered in practice.

The provider has not adequately described its management and governance arrangements, in particular, to identify the body or group that constitutes its governing body. It is not clear where responsibility lies for management and governance or the power the board of governors (which the OfS has identified as the provider’s governing body) has to make decisions.

A lack of credibility in the provider’s financial forecasts and business plan raises concerns about the adequacy and effectiveness of its management and governance arrangements. It also raises concern that the governing body is not providing sufficient challenge on issues that are material to the credibility of the provider’s financial strategy and performance.

Further information

The OfS did not reach a decision about whether some of the other initial conditions were satisfied. These were:

  • Initial conditions B1, B2, B4 and B5: Quality and standards.

A decision about these conditions was not made because the OfS judged that the outcomes from a Quality and Standards Review would be necessary to reach a decision. The OfS took the view that gathering and assessing this evidence would not have been proportionate in circumstances in which four initial conditions were not satisfied and the provider could not therefore be registered.

The fact that the OfS did not reach a decision for these initial conditions is neither a negative nor positive judgement about the provider.

Azores Properties Limited’s application for registration was refused by the Office for Students on 14 May 2020.

This was because the OfS decided that Azores Properties Limited did not satisfy the following initial conditions of registration:

Initial condition D: Financial viability and sustainability

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the provider is at material risk of insolvency in the next three years. Forecasts for student numbers and associated income are optimistic and there is no supporting evidence about how the forecasts have been developed. The provider has not provided information about the mitigations it would put in place if it did not achieve forecast student numbers.

The provider stated that its majority shareholder had made a loan to the provider in order to establish the business. The provider stated that an initial sum had been committed, but was unable to provide evidence that the funds had been received. The OfS was therefore not able to take assurance that these funds were available to the provider. The provider also submitted a loan letter to the OfS, but this did not meet the requirements set out in the regulatory framework for a legally binding obligation of financial support from a third party and the OfS was therefore not able to take assurance that these funds were available to the provider.

Initial condition E1: Public interest governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the provider’s governing documents do not demonstrate that the following public interest governance principles are upheld:

  1. Risk management: The provider operates comprehensive corporate risk management and control arrangements (including for academic risk) to ensure the sustainability of the provider’s operations, and its ability to continue to comply with all of its conditions of registration.
  2. Freedom of speech: The governing body takes such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured within the provider.
  3. Independent members of the governing body: There must be at least one external member of the governing body who is independent of the provider, and whose term of office is normally limited to a maximum of three terms of three years or two terms of four years. For providers with large governing bodies, or more complex legal forms, additional independent members may be appropriate.
  4. Regularity, propriety and value for money: The governing body ensures that there are adequate and effective arrangements in place to ensure public funds are managed appropriately, in line with the conditions of grant and the principles of regularity, propriety and value for money, and to protect the interests of taxpayers and other stakeholders. This also applies to any funds passed to another entity for the provision of facilities or learning and teaching, or for research to be undertaken.

Initial condition E2: Management and governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the provider’s management and governance arrangements do not appear to be adequate and provide limited confidence that they would be effective in the future. There are concerns about the credibility of the information submitted by the provider in its application for registration which suggests that the provider has not established processes that allow challenge and scrutiny of the its plans.

In addition, there is a lack of credibility in the provider’s financial and student number forecasts, providing further evidence that there is a lack of challenge and scrutiny by the governing body. Proposed management and governance arrangements are therefore not judged to be adequate and do not provide confidence that they would be effective once the provider is operational.

Further information

The OfS did not reach a decision about whether some of the other initial conditions were satisfied. These were:

  • Initial conditions B1, B2, B4 and B5: Quality and standards.

A decision about these conditions was not made because the OfS judged that the outcomes from a Quality and Standards Review would be necessary to reach a decision. The OfS took the view that gathering and assessing this evidence would not have been proportionate in circumstances in which three initial conditions were not satisfied and the provider could not therefore be registered.

The fact that the OfS did not reach a decision for these initial conditions is neither a negative nor positive judgement about the provider.

Blackpool College Ltd’s application for registration was refused by the OfS on 6 December 2019.

This was because the Office for Students decided that Blackpool College Ltd did not satisfy the following initial condition of registration:

Initial condition C1: Guidance on consumer protection law

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the college failed to provide credible evidence to demonstrate that it has had due regard to relevant guidance on how to comply with consumer protection law when developing and implementing its policies, procedures and terms and conditions. There was a lack of clarity about the extent to which the processes and activity described in the college’s self-assessment were planned for the future or were already in place. The college’s terms and conditions were not clear and accessible to students. The college’s website contained information for potential students which did not reflect the consumer protection principles within the guidance to which the college ought to have given due regard in order to satisfy this condition. The college’s website referred to the college as a “university” (which is a protected title) and the OfS considered that this would be misleading to students and the public.

Initial condition C3: Student protection plan

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that it would not approve the draft student protection plan submitted by the college as part of its application for registration.

The OfS considers that the plan is not approvable as it does not credibly assess the specific risks to continuation of study for the college’s students and is not sufficiently detailed about the proposed mitigation for those risks. The plan does not set out arrangements for compensation for students in the event that the college is unable to preserve continuation of study. The OfS takes the view that the provisions in the draft plan are insufficient in light of the OfS’s assessment of the risk to continuation of study for students.

Initial condition D: Financial viability and sustainability

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the college is not financially viable or sustainable. The college’s financial forecasts are based on optimistic assumptions of growth in student numbers which are not judged to be realistic, and which are not supported by credible explanations of how these will be achieved. The college’s business plan provides no credible evidence to support the income and expenditure assumptions set out in the financial tables. The financial tables submitted as part of the college’s application for registration contained a significant number of errors such that the OfS could not rely on the figures they contained.

Initial condition E1: Public interest governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the college’s governing documents do not demonstrate that the following public interest governance principles are upheld:

  1. Academic freedom: Academic staff at an English higher education provider have freedom within the law:

    – to question and test received wisdom; and
    – to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions;

    without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges they may have at the provider.
  2. Accountability: The provider operates openly, honestly, accountably and with integrity and demonstrates the values appropriate to be recognised as an English higher education provider.
  3. Student engagement: The governing body ensures that all students have opportunities to engage with the governance of the provider, and that this allows for a range of perspectives to have influence.
  4. Academic governance: The governing body receives and tests assurance that academic governance is adequate and effective through explicit protocols with the senate/academic board (or equivalent).
  5. Risk management: The provider operates comprehensive corporate risk management and control arrangements (including for academic risk) to ensure the sustainability of the provider’s operations, and its ability to continue to comply with all of its conditions of registration.
  6. Value for money: The governing body ensures that there are adequate and effective arrangements in place to provide transparency about value for money for all students and (where a provider has access to the student support system or to grant funding) for taxpayers.
  7. Freedom of speech: The governing body takes such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured within the College.
  8. Governing body: The size, composition, diversity, skills mix, and terms of office of the governing body is appropriate for the nature, scale and complexity of the provider.
  9. Fit and proper: Members of the governing body, those with senior management responsibilities, and individuals exercising control or significant influence over the provider, are fit and proper persons.
  10. Independent members of the governing body: There must be at least one external member of the governing body who is independent of the provider, and whose term of office is normally limited to a maximum of three terms of three years or two terms of four years. For providers with large governing bodies, or more complex legal forms, additional independent members may be appropriate.
  11. Regularity, propriety and value for money: The governing body ensures that there are adequate and effective arrangements in place to ensure public funds are managed appropriately, in line with the conditions of grant and the principles of regularity, propriety and value for money, and to protect the interests of taxpayers and other stakeholders. This also applies to any funds passed to another entity for the provision of facilities or learning and teaching, or for research to be undertaken.

Initial condition E2: Management and governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the college has not provided sufficient or credible evidence to demonstrate that its management and governance arrangements are adequate and effective.

The college’s self-assessment lacked detail about how adequate and effective management and governance is achieved in practice, and it was not clear whether the arrangements set out were already in place or planned for the future. This means that the OfS cannot be assured that the college’s management and governance arrangements are adequate and effective.

Further information

The OfS did not reach a decision about whether a number of other initial conditions were satisfied. These were:

  • Initial condition A1: Access and participation plan
  • Initial conditions B1, B2, B4 and B5: Quality and standards.

A decision about initial condition A1 was not made because the provider had not submitted an access and participation plan that could be approved by the Director for Fair Access and Participation.

A decision about the quality and standards conditions was not made because the OfS judged that the outcomes from a Quality and Standards Review would be necessary to reach a decision. The OfS took the view that gathering and assessing this evidence would not have been proportionate in circumstances in which five initial conditions were not satisfied and the provider could not therefore be registered.

The fact that the OfS did not reach a decision for these initial conditions is neither a negative nor positive judgement about the provider.

East End Computing & Business College Limited’s application for registration was refused by the OfS on 4 May 2020.

This was because the Office for Students decided that East End Computing & Business College Limited did not satisfy the following initial conditions of registration:

Initial condition C1: Guidance on consumer protection law

Summary of reasons:

The college stated that it uses the Competition and Markets Authority’s guidance and the self-assessment submitted as part of its application for registration provided an account of how it had given due regard to the guidance.

However, the college’s website contained misleading and missing information. There was no fee information for students on the website, despite the self-assessment stating that this information was published. In addition, although the college stated that it had implemented a monthly review of public information from April 2018, there were references to Pearson accredited courses and positive QAA reviews on the home page up until September 2019. The OfS considered this information to be misleading to students because it was incorrect. The OfS takes the view that the errors and omissions on the website undermine the credibility of the college’s self-assessment because they would not have occurred if the college were having due regard to guidance on how to comply with consumer protection law and operating as described in its self-assessment.

The college did not explain why it had not removed misleading information from its website when this was drawn to its attention by the OfS. The information appeared only to have been removed after the OfS set out its intention to refuse registration.

Initial condition E2: Management and governance

Summary of reasons:

It is the view of the OfS that the college has failed to demonstrate that it has in place adequate and effective management and governance arrangements in order to: operate in accordance with its governing documents; deliver, in practice, the public interest governance principles that are applicable to it; and continue to comply with all conditions of its registration.

The college has failed to demonstrate that it has a clear understanding of the OfS’s regulatory requirements. The college has made changes to the documents it submitted as part of its application for registration in order to demonstrate that the public interest governance principles are upheld in its governing documents. However, the OfS has limited confidence in its ability to deliver, in practice, the relevant public interest governance principles and to operate in accordance with its governing documents.

The evidence submitted in the college’s representations did not satisfy the OfS’s concerns about its management and governance arrangements as these apply to condition C1. This is because the OfS does not have full assurance that the policy and approach to published information described by the college is robust or followed in practice.

The level of engagement with the college required during the registration process, and the fact the college did not address issues unless these were raised by the OfS through a formal process, suggests that the OfS would be required to spend a disproportionate amount of resource regulating the college if it were registered.

Further information

The OfS did not reach a decision about whether some of the other initial conditions were satisfied. These were:

  • Initial conditions B1, B2, B4 and B5: Quality and standards.

A decision about these conditions was not made because the OfS judged that the outcomes from a Quality and Standards Review would be necessary to reach a decision. The OfS took the view that gathering and assessing this evidence would not have been proportionate in circumstances in which two initial conditions were not satisfied and the provider could not therefore be registered.

The fact that the OfS did not reach a decision for these initial conditions is neither a negative nor positive judgement about the provider.

Elizabeth School of London Limited’s application for registration was refused by the OfS on 8 April 2020.

This was because the Office for Students decided that Elizabeth School of London Limited did not satisfy the following initial conditions of registration:

Initial condition C1: Guidance on consumer protection law

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the self-assessment submitted by the school as part of its application for registration does not provide a credible and evidence-based account of how it has given due regard to guidance about how to comply with consumer protection law. The OfS also considers that the self-assessment shows a lack of understanding of consumer protection legislation.

Initial condition C3: Student protection plan

Summary of reasons:

The OfS has not approved the draft student protection plan submitted by the school as part of its application for registration. The OfS takes the view that the mitigations in the school’s student protection plan are inadequate to the risks to the continuation of study of higher education students identified by the school or by the OfS. The planned structures that the school states will mitigate the risks are not yet in place. The school’s draft Fees and Refund policy is unclear and does not appear to be specific to the school.

The OfS’s findings in relation to the school’s financial viability and sustainability mean that the OfS does not have confidence that the school has sufficient financial resources to refund or compensate students in the event that the student protection plan has to be implemented.

Initial condition D: Financial viability and sustainability

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the school is not financially viable or sustainable. The information submitted during the representation process raised new concerns about the school’s ability to supply reliable information, because it did not provide sufficient clarity about issues in the initial submission, and it introduced new inconsistencies.

Initial condition E1: Public interest governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the school’s governing documents do not demonstrate that the following public interest governance principles are upheld:

  1. Academic freedom: Academic staff at an English higher education provider have freedom within the law:

    – to question and test received wisdom; and
    – to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions

    without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges they may have at the provider.
  2. Accountability: The provider operates openly, honestly, accountably and with integrity and demonstrates the values appropriate to be recognised as an English higher education provider.
  3. Student engagement: The governing body ensures that all students have opportunities to engage with the governance of the provider, and that this allows for a range of perspectives to have influence.
  4. Academic governance: The governing body receives and tests assurance that academic governance is adequate and effective through explicit protocols with the senate/academic board (or equivalent).
  5. Risk management: The provider operates comprehensive corporate risk management and control arrangements (including for academic risk) to ensure the sustainability of the provider’s operations, and its ability to continue to comply with all of its conditions of registration.
  6. Value for money: The governing body ensures that there are adequate and effective arrangements in place to provide transparency about value for money for all students and (where a provider has access to the student support system or to grant funding) for taxpayers.
  7. Freedom of speech: The governing body takes such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured within the provider.
  8. Governing body: The size, composition, diversity, skills mix, and terms of office of the governing body is appropriate for the nature, scale and complexity of the provider.
  9. Fit and proper: Members of the governing body, those with senior management responsibilities, and individuals exercising control or significant influence over the provider, are fit and proper persons.

Initial condition E2: Management and governance

Summary of reasons:

The school has planned a new management and governance structure, but this is not yet in place and the self-assessment submitted as part of its application for registration does not include any documentation underpinning this planned structure. The OfS therefore takes the view that there is not credible evidence to demonstrate that management and governance arrangements are adequate and effective.

There is insufficient evidence that the public interest governance principles are upheld in governing documents, and therefore the OfS does not have sufficient assurance that the school can deliver, in practice, those principles.

In the OfS’s view, the lack of credibility in the financial information provided by the school raises concerns about the adequacy and effectiveness of its management and governance arrangements because this suggests that the governing body does not have effective oversight of regulatory compliance and is not providing sufficient challenge on issues that are material to the credibility of the school’s financial strategy and performance and the governing body's.

Further information

The OfS did not reach a decision about whether some of the other initial conditions were satisfied. These were:

  • Initial conditions B1, B2, B4 and B5: Quality and standards.

A decision about these conditions was not made because the OfS judged that the outcomes from a Quality and Standards Review would be necessary to reach a decision. The OfS took the view that gathering and assessing this evidence would not have been proportionate in circumstances in which five initial conditions were not satisfied and the provider could not therefore be registered.

The fact that the OfS did not reach a decision for these initial conditions is neither a negative nor positive judgement about the provider.

ForMission Ltd’s application for registration was refused by the Office for Students on 8 June 2020.

This was because the OfS decided that ForMission Ltd did not satisfy the following initial conditions of registration:

Initial condition B3: Quality (student outcomes)

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that ForMission’s continuation rate data (evidencing the number of students who continue from the first into the second year of study) and the attainment gap between students from different demographic groups show that ForMission has failed to demonstrate that it delivers successful outcomes for all of its students, which are recognised and valued by employers
and/or enable further study for all of its students.

Initial condition C3: Student protection plan

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that it would not approve the student protection plan submitted by ForMission as part of its application for registration.

The OfS considers that the draft plan is not approvable as it does not credibly address how continuation of study would be achieved for students in certain circumstances. A revised plan contained a new statement that teaching locations were secured for a minimum rental period of 24 months. However, the provider confirmed that it was in the process of extending lease
arrangements, but these were not yet finalised. 

The provider was unable to provide credible evidence to support the statement made in its revised plan that it would give students one academic year’s notice of a change of teaching location. This leads to concerns about the extent to which students would be protected, and how continuation of study would be secured, should the student protection plan need to be implemented.

Initial condition E2: Management and governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that credible evidence has not been presented to demonstrate that the provider’s management and governance arrangements are adequate and effective.

The provider has failed to credibly address all of the OfS’s concerns about its management and governance arrangements. It has not adequately described why its arrangements are appropriate, or made an assessment of the adequacy and effectiveness of its arrangements. There is a lack of clarity about the way its committees function and about where overall responsibility for decision making lies.

Credible reasons were not provided to explain errors in information submitted to the OfS, including in relation to financial information, and robust measures have not been set out to ensure that such errors do not happen again. The provider has not explained inconsistencies in the way that its oversight arrangements are described in its self-assessments and its governing documents.

The judgments reached by the OfS in relation to conditions B3 and C3 raise concerns about the capabilities of the provider’s management and governance arrangements and the extent to which there is adequate oversight and challenge. This also raises concerns about the effectiveness of the governing body's oversight of regulatory compliance.

Further information

The OfS did not reach a decision about whether one of the other initial conditions was satisfied. This was:

  • Initial condition C1: Guidance on consumer protection law.

In the interests of proportionality and on the basis that conditions B3, C3 and E2 had already not been satisfied, the OfS did not make a final decision about the provider’s ability to satisfy initial condition of registration C1 (guidance on consumer protection law). The fact that the OfS did not reach a decision for this initial condition is neither a negative nor positive judgement about the provider.

GSM London Limited's application for registration was refused by the OfS on 16 April 2020.

This was because the Office for Students decided that GSM London Limited did not satisfy the following initial conditions of registration:

Initial condition B3: Quality (student outcomes)

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that continuation rate data for GSM London Limited (evidencing the number of higher education students who continue from the first into the second year of study) shows that GSM London Limited failed to demonstrate that it delivers successful outcomes for all of its students, which are recognised and valued by employers and/or enable further study for all of its students.

Initial condition D: Financial viability and sustainability

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that GSM London Limited was not financially viable or sustainable. The financial position of GSM London Limited was contingent on the provider finding a buyer for the business and that buyer making significant investment. This was not achieved and the OfS concluded that GSM London Limited was neither financially viable nor sustainable.

Further information

The OfS did not reach a decision about whether one other initial condition was satisfied. This was:

  • Initial Condition E2: Management and governance.

The representations made in response to the OfS's provisional decision to refuse registration were submitted by the governing body before the provider entered voluntary administration. No new information has been supplied to provide sufficient evidence for the OfS to determine whether the initial condition is satisfied. The Joint Administrators are currently responsible for the management and governance of the provider, and the OfS therefore takes the view that it is unable to reach a judgement about this condition. For the avoidance of doubt, this issue was not material to the OfS's final decision to refuse registration.

Harrow Independent College Limited’s application for registration has been refused.

This is because the Office for Students has decided that Harrow Independent College Limited does not satisfy the following initial conditions of registration:

Initial condition Summary of reasons
Condition C3 – Student protection plan

The OfS takes the view that the student protection plan submitted by the college is not approvable as it does not provide sufficient detail about the practical steps that the college would take if the plan had to be implemented for its higher education students. The OfS is also of the view that the college does not have sufficient funds to refund and/or compensate higher education students in the event of non-continuation of study.

Condition D – Financial viability and sustainability

The OfS takes the view that the college has made assumptions about growth in student numbers and income that are not credible. If this growth is not delivered, the college’s financial position would not be viable or sustainable.

Condition E2 – Management and governance The OfS takes the view that the lack of credibility of the college’s student and financial forecasts provides evidence that management and governance arrangements are not adequate and effective because it appears that the college’s governing body is not providing sufficient independent challenge in relation to issues material to the credibility of the college’s financial strategy and performance.

Kensington Education Foundation Limited’s application for registration was refused by the OfS on 5 December 2019.

This was because the Office for Students decided that Kensington Education Foundation Limited did not satisfy the following initial condition of registration:

Initial condition B3: Quality (student outcomes)

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that Kensington Education Foundation Limited failed to satisfy initial condition B3 insofar as the provider’s continuation rate data (evidencing the number of higher education students progressing from their first to their second year of study) shows that the provider has failed to demonstrate that it delivers successful outcomes for all of its students, which are recognised and valued by employers and/or enable further study for all of its higher education students.

Further information

The OfS did not reach a decision about whether some of the other initial conditions were satisfied. This was because the OfS judged that the outcomes from a Quality and Standards Review and further evidence about the provider’s management and governance arrangements would be necessary to reach a decision. The OfS took the view that gathering and assessing this evidence would not have been proportionate in circumstances in which initial condition B3 was not satisfied and the provider could not therefore be registered. The initial conditions for which the OfS did not reach a decision were:

  • Initial conditions B1, B2, B4 and B5: Quality and standards
  • Initial condition E2: Management and governance.

The fact that the OfS did not reach a decision for these initial conditions is neither a negative nor positive judgement about the provider.

Lancaster and Morecambe College’s application for registration has been refused.

This is because the Office for Students has decided that Lancaster and Morecambe College does not satisfy the following initial condition of registration:

  • Condition B3 – Quality (student outcomes)

The OfS takes the view that the college’s continuation rate data (evidencing the number of higher education students who continue from the first into the second year of study), show that the college has failed to demonstrate that it delivers successful outcomes for all of its higher education students, which are recognised and valued by employers and/or enable further study.

London Vocational College Limited’s application for registration was refused by the OfS on 30 January 2020.

This was because the Office for Students decided that London Vocational College Limited did not satisfy the following initial condition of registration:

Initial condition C3: Student protection plan

Summary of reasons:

The OfS has not approved the draft student protection plan submitted by the college as part of its application for registration. The OfS considers that the plan is not approvable as it does not provide a credible and evidence-based assessment of the risks to the continuation of study for the college’s students, including how these risks may differ for different students. The plan does not provide a credible set of mitigations for the risks identified and there are inconsistencies in the mitigations and the approach to refunds and compensation.

Given the OfS’s findings in relation to the college’s financial viability and sustainability the OfS does not have confidence that the college has sufficient financial resources to refund or compensate students in the event that the plan has to be implemented.

Initial condition D: Financial viability and sustainability

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the college is not financially viable or sustainable. The college’s historical financial position has been weak. Its forecasts do not appear credible and the basis for forecast of rapid growth in student numbers is not explained in the financial commentary. The financial commentary does not contain sufficient information about how the college would manage key financial risks, for example under-recruitment of students, as is required in the OfS’s registration guidance.

Initial condition E1: Public interest governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the college’s governing documents do not demonstrate that the following public interest governance principles are upheld:

  1. Academic freedom: Academic staff at an English higher education provider have freedom within the law:

    – to question and test received wisdom; and
    – to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions

    without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges they may have at the provider.
  2. Accountability: The provider operates openly, honestly, accountably and with integrity and demonstrates the values appropriate to be recognised as an English higher education provider.
  3. Academic governance: The governing body receives and tests assurance that academic governance is adequate and effective through explicit protocols with the senate/academic board (or equivalent).
  4. Risk management: The provider operates comprehensive corporate risk management and control arrangements (including for academic risk) to ensure the sustainability of the provider’s operations, and its ability to continue to comply with all of its conditions of registration.
  5. Value for money: The governing body ensures that there are adequate and effective arrangements in place to provide transparency about value for money for all students and (where a provider has access to the student support system or to grant funding) for taxpayers.
  6. Freedom of speech: The governing body takes such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured within the provider.
  7. Governing body: The size, composition, diversity, skills mix, and terms of office of the governing body is appropriate for the nature, scale and complexity of the provider.
  8. Fit and proper: Members of the governing body, those with senior management responsibilities, and individuals exercising control or significant influence over the provider, are fit and proper persons.

Initial condition E2: Management and governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the college does not have in place adequate and effective management and governance arrangements. The college has not adequately described its management and governance arrangements, nor set out the reasons it considers these to be appropriate. The college’s self-assessment submitted as part of its application for registration does not contain an assessment of the adequacy and effectiveness of its arrangements.

The OfS takes the view that there is very limited evidence that the college delivers the public interest governance principles in practice.

In the OfS’s view, the lack of credibility in the college’s financial forecasts raises concerns about the adequacy and effectiveness of the its management and governance arrangements and about whether the governing body is providing sufficient challenge on issues that are material to the credibility of the provider’s financial strategy and performance.

Further information

The OfS did not reach a decision about whether some of the other initial conditions were satisfied. These were:

  • Initial conditions B1, B2, B4 and B5: Quality and standards

A decision about these conditions was not made because the OfS judged that the outcomes from a Quality and Standards Review would be necessary to reach a decision. The OfS took the view that gathering and assessing this evidence would not have been proportionate in circumstances in which four initial conditions were not satisfied and the provider could not therefore be registered.

The fact that the OfS did not reach a decision for these initial conditions is neither a negative nor positive judgement about the provider.

Newham College of Further Education’s application for registration has been refused.

This is because the Office for Students has decided that Newham College does not satisfy the following initial condition of registration:

  • Condition B3 - Quality (student outcomes).

The OfS takes the view that Newham College of Further Education failed to satisfy initial condition B3 insofar as the College’s continuation rate data (evidencing the number of higher education students progressing from their first to their second year of study) shows that the College has failed to demonstrate that it delivers successful outcomes for all of its higher education students, which are recognised and valued by employers and/or enable further study for all of its higher education students.

Smart Educators Limited’s application for registration was refused by the OfS on 4 May 2020.

This was because the Office for Students decided that Smart Educators Limited did not satisfy the following initial conditions of registration:

Initial condition C3: Student protection plan

Summary of reasons:

The OfS has not approved the draft student protection plan submitted by the provider as part of its application for registration. The OfS takes the view that the student protection plan does not provide a credible and evidence-based assessment of the risks to the continuation of study for the provider’s higher education students.

The OfS's findings in relation to the provider’s financial viability and sustainability mean that the OfS is also concerned about how the provider would meet any obligations to students in the event that the plan had to be implemented.

Initial condition D: Financial viability and sustainability

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the provider is not financially viable or sustainable.

The provider's financial forecasts are underpinned by significant growth in student numbers (and associated fee income) which the OfS considers to be ambitious because there is not a credible explanation of how the provider has determined the student numbers expected in its first year and there is a lack of clarity about how it plans to achieve substantial growth in each subsequent year.

The provider's strategies and objectives (as outlined in its access and participation document) appear reasonable in order to appeal to students, but it has not performed any sensitivity analysis and the OfS is concerned by the absence of any substantiated evidence to show how these objectives will deliver its recruitment and student number projections.

If the provider is unable to achieve its optimistic recruitment targets, the associated fee income would be less than forecast and could result in material deficits. The provider does not have the financial strength to absorb these.

The loan agreement submitted by the provider is not a legally binding commitment and is repayable if there is an ‘Event of Default’, which has been defined broadly. The provider stated that it could access additional funding but did not submit any evidence to confirm that this would be available or sufficient. The provider currently has more liabilities than assets and while its future cash balance is forecast to be strong, this is based on optimistic student number forecasts which are not judged to be credible.

Initial condition E2: Management and governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the provider's management and governance arrangements are not adequate or effective. The lack of credibility in the provider's financial forecasts raise concerns about the adequacy and effectiveness of its management and governance arrangements and the extent to which it has sufficiently tested and challenged issues that are material to the provider's financial strategy and performance.

It is the OfS's view that the business plan submitted as part of the application for registration lacks detail and credibility and this suggests a lack of external scrutiny of the provider's plans, projections and arrangements. The OfS concludes that this means that management and governance arrangements are not effective.

The OfS is of the view that the provider does not have sufficient management capacity and capability to ensure it is able to satisfy the conditions of registration and that the provider's governing body does not have effective oversight and scrutiny of the provider's operations.

Further information

The OfS did not reach a decision about whether some of the other initial conditions were satisfied. These were:

  • Initial conditions B1, B2, B4 and B5: Quality and standards.

A decision about these conditions was not made because the OfS judged that the outcomes from a Quality and Standards Review would be necessary to reach a decision. The OfS took the view that gathering and assessing this evidence would not have been proportionate in circumstances in which three initial conditions were not satisfied and the provider could not therefore be registered.

The fact that the OfS did not reach a decision for these initial conditions is neither a negative nor positive judgement about the provider.

Spurgeon’s College’s application for registration was refused by the OfS on 9 August 2019.

This was because the Office for Students decided that Spurgeon’s College did not satisfy the following initial condition of registration:

  • Initial Condition D: Financial viability and sustainability

Summary of reasons

The OfS took the view that the college did not satisfy the requirements of condition D as the college was forecasting deficits, cash outflows from its core activities, and weak liquidity. In addition, the OfS’s view was that the college did not have sufficient financial resources to be sustainable. The OfS considered that the college’s plan to address these issues was not credible and was insufficient to resolve the OfS’s concerns about financial viability and sustainability.

Further information

After the OfS had informed the college that its application for registration had been refused the college took steps to improve its financial position. It made a new application for registration on 8 October 2019. This second application contained new information, including evidence of material factual changes relevant to the college’s financial position. The OfS has assessed the new evidence submitted by the college and has determined that it has now demonstrated that all initial conditions of registration are satisfied. The college will therefore be registered in the Approved (fee cap) category of the OfS’s Register.

The OfS remains firmly of the view that its original decision to refuse registration is legally robust and appropriate on the basis of the evidence submitted by the college, including during the representations process, and the factual position that existed at the time. The OfS therefore strongly refutes the public statements made by the college that suggest otherwise.

UK Advanced Technical Academy’s application for registration was refused by the Office for Students on 29 April 2020.

This was because the OfS decided that UK Advanced Technical Academy did not satisfy the following initial conditions of registration:

Initial condition A2: Access and participation statement

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the provider does not satisfy this condition as it has not published an access and participation statement on its website.

Initial condition C1: Guidance on consumer protection law

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that there is not credible evidence that the provider has given due regard to guidance about how it complies with consumer protection law in relation to its higher education activities.

Initial condition C3: Student protection plan

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that it does not approve the student protection plan submitted by the provider as part of its application for registration.

The OfS considers that the plan is not approvable as it does not credibly assess the risks to continuation of study for the provider’s higher education students. This is because the plan includes a number of risks that are not relevant to the provider.

Initial condition D: Financial viability and sustainability

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the provider is not financially viable or financially sustainable. The OfS takes the view that there is a lack of credibility in relation to student recruitment and financial forecasts submitted during the registration process.

Initial condition E1: Public interest governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that the provider’s governing documents do not demonstrate that the following public interest governance principles are upheld:

  1. Academic freedom: Academic staff at an English higher education provider have freedom within the law: 

    - to question and test received wisdom; and 
    - to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions
    without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges they may have at the provider.

  2. Accountability: The provider operates openly, honestly, accountably and with integrity and demonstrates the values appropriate to be recognised as an English higher education provider.
  3. Risk management: The provider operates comprehensive corporate risk management and control arrangements (including for academic risk) to ensure the sustainability of the provider’s operations, and its ability to continue to comply with all of its conditions of registration.
  4. Value for money: The governing body ensures that there are adequate and effective arrangements in place to provide transparency about value for money for all students and (where a provider has access to the student support system or to grant funding) for taxpayers.
  5. Governing body: The size, composition, diversity, skills mix, and terms of office of the governing body is appropriate for the nature, scale and complexity of the provider.
  6. Fit and proper: Members of the governing body, those with senior management responsibilities, and individuals exercising control or significant influence over the provider, are fit and proper persons.

Initial condition E2: Management and governance

Summary of reasons:

The OfS takes the view that there is a lack of credible information about the provider’s management and governance arrangements. The provider did not provide a clear and unambiguous statement of its management and governance arrangements and did not submit a credible self-assessment of the adequacy and effectiveness of its management and governance arrangements.

Further information

The OfS did not reach a decision about whether some of the other initial conditions of registration were satisfied by the provider. These were:

  • Initial conditions B1, B2, B4 and B5: Quality and standards.

A decision about these conditions was not made because the OfS judged that the outcomes from a Quality and Standards Review would be necessary to reach a decision. The OfS took the view that gathering and assessing this evidence would not have been proportionate in circumstances in which six initial conditions were not satisfied and the provider could not therefore be registered.

The fact that the OfS did not reach a decision for these initial conditions is neither a negative nor positive judgement about the provider.

Waltham Forest College’s application for registration has been refused.

This is because the Office for Students has decided that Waltham Forest College does not satisfy the following initial condition of registration:

  • Condition B3 – Quality.

A summary of our reasons are set out below:

Initial condition Summary of reasons
B3: Quality The OfS takes the view that the college’s continuation rate data (evidencing the number of higher education students progressing from their first to their second year of study) shows that the college has failed to demonstrate that it delivers successful outcomes for all of its higher education students, which are recognised and valued by employers and/or enable further study for all of its higher education students.
Last updated 27 July 2020
27 July 2020
Reasons for refusal for AWA Business School Limited, Azores Properties Limited, ForMission Ltd and UK Advanced Technical Academy published
30 June 2020
Reasons for refusal for East End Computing & Business College Limited, Elizabeth School of London Limited, GSM London Limited and Smart Educators Limited published
06 March 2020
Reasons for refusal for London Vocational College Limited published
28 February 2020
Reasons for refusal for Acculearn Training Limited, Blackpool College Ltd and Kensington Education Foundation Limited published
28 November 2019
Update on Spurgeon's College's application for registration
15 November 2019
Reasons for refusal for Harrow Independent College Limited and Lancaster and Morecambe College published

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