Validation is where an established higher education provider validates courses that are delivered by a different provider. We’re making it easier for universities and colleges to form validation partnerships as part of our work to address skills gaps and increase student choice.

Validation enables a provider to deliver higher education when it might not otherwise have the expertise and resources to create new courses itself, or have the powers to make the award. For example, a further education college seeking to offer courses at higher levels may need a university to validate those courses.

Improving the validation system

We know that providers can face many barriers when seeking a validating partner, and that can make offering innovative and flexible provision unnecessarily burdensome. Currently most validation arrangements involve bespoke partnerships which can be costly to arrange and so deter providers from trying new courses.

The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 gave us the power to commission validation arrangements from suitable providers, and we set out our intention to use these powers in our regulatory framework. We're now piloting a model in which universities can offer validation services for some or all of their taught awards.

Increasing student choice

Validation partnerships increase the number and variety of high quality higher education options available to students. This can contribute to meeting our objectives of addressing skills shortages and promoting equal access to higher education.

The government has a specific objective to increase opportunities to study vocational and technical courses in parts of the country where they are not currently widely available, benefitting both students and local employers. The Secretary of State for Education issued guidance to us in May 2022 asking us to support further education colleges in forming validation partnerships to deliver these courses.

Open University Validation project

We have commissioned the Open University (OU) to operate the OU Validation project. The OU will offer a validation service for high quality vocational and technical (Level 4 and 5) courses.

To pilot this model we awarded up to £10 million on behalf of the government to the OU to enable them to enter into validation arrangements with further education colleges and other suitable higher education providers. Nine partner colleges have been announced as working with the OU as part of this project. The partners are:

  • Lakes College Cumbria
  • College of West Anglia, Norfolk
  • Hopwood Hall College, Greater Manchester
  • Kingston Maurward College, Dorset
  • John Leggott College, Lincolnshire
  • Barking and Dagenham College, London
  • Tameside College, Greater Manchester
  • Strode College
  • Yeovil College.

We commissioned the project in May 2022, and we have imposed a specific condition of registration on the OU to set out the commissioning arrangements and terms and conditions for project.

Find out more about the OU Validation project
Published 19 July 2023

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