Responding, Lord Wharton, chair of the OfS, said:
‘The OfS’s values include openness and seeking opportunities for learning, and the House of Lords’ Industry and Regulators Committee’s Inquiry provided a helpful opportunity to hear from representatives of higher education institutions, students, and policymakers, and understand these stakeholders’ thoughts on our regulatory approach.
‘The committee’s report highlights the importance of the quality and value for money of courses, as well as the financial sustainability of institutions. The committee highlights that students should be able to fairly access high quality courses, be properly supported while they study and as they prepare for their careers. Robust regulation is important, for taxpayers and students alike, to protect their significant investment in higher education. These concerns sit at the heart of the OfS’s regulatory strategy, and we welcome the committee’s focus on how we can improve our impact on these issues.
‘The committee, and others, have been right to signal the particular importance of financial sustainability in higher education. We monitor individual institutions, gather intelligence to identify system-wide risk, and publish our analysis of financial sustainability across the sector. Our detailed analysis of the data universities provide to us suggests that many are in good financial shape. We are also alive to significant risks, including the impact of a fixed undergraduate tuition fee, cost pressures and an overreliance by some on international students. Our important work in this area is often not publicly visible. But we will continue to identify risk and use the tools we have to protect the interests of students if an institution encounters financial difficulties.
‘The committee’s report will also provide further impetus for our work to refresh the way we engage with the sector we regulate, and those for whom we regulate. We ran a programme of visits to institutions in the summer, meeting face-to-face with students and staff to hear about their experiences of higher education and the issues they face. We have gained important insights from these visits and received positive feedback about our approach. We look forward to the next set of visits scheduled through the autumn.
‘We thank the committee for its work. The OfS has already taken proactive steps to address many of the issues the committee has raised, and we will consider its report carefully over the weeks ahead and respond more fully in due course.’