New OfS-National Trading Standards partnership to protect students’ rights as consumers

A new partnership between the higher education regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), and National Trading Standards will help protect students at universities and colleges across England.

The three priority areas in the new agreement are:

  • Organisations that wrongly claim to be registered with the OfS or to have degree awarding powers or university title
  • Unfair terms and conditions in student contracts, such as misleading precontract information on which students rely when choosing their course
  • Misleading advertising by essay mills.

Since its formation, the OfS has worked with National Trading Standards to support students’ consumer interests. Today’s announcement will strengthen this arrangement with a guarantee that National Trading Standards will examine each notification it receives from the OfS where a potential breach of consumer protection legislation has been identified. National Trading Standards will also provide the OfS with expert advice on consumer law matters in higher education cases.

Director of Quality at the OfS, Jean Arnold, said:

‘Students invest significant time and money in their higher education, and it is important that they can choose a provider and a course with confidence. Some organisations wrongly claim the right to award degrees, or to call themselves universities, and it is important that we can take action in these cases. This partnership will also improve our ability to tackle essay mills that seek to take advantage of students. It will strengthen our ability to protect students and the reputation of the English higher education sector against rogue organisations that seek to exploit students.

‘Universities and colleges rightly recognise that the terms and conditions in their student contracts should be fair, and that they should uphold students’ rights as consumers. In the small number of cases where we have concerns, we can now refer a case to National Trading Standards for review and enforcement action where appropriate.’


  1. National Trading Standards delivers national and regional consumer protection enforcement, with much of its regional work undertaken by local Trading Standards partners. Trading Standards acts on behalf of consumers and businesses and advises on, and enforces, laws that govern the way we buy, sell and rent goods and services.
  2. The OfS will refer cases that raise consumer protection concerns to National Trading Standards, which will provide advice on the application of consumer protection law. Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards will take informal action to bring about compliance with consumer law.
  3. The Consumer Rights Act (2015) and other legislation provides students with consumer rights throughout their higher education course.
  4. The agreement between the OfS and National Trading Standards is a backstop that will operate until 31 March 2024. The OfS will review its effectiveness towards the end of the agreement.
  5. Read how to notify the OfS of a higher education provider that is not meeting its requirements.
Published 24 November 2022

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