Regulatory framework

Securing student success: Regulatory framework for higher education in England

Last updated: 24 November 2022

Annex B: Public interest governance principles

The public interest governance principles applicable to all registered providers:


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.


Accountability: The provider operates openly, honestly, accountably and with integrity and demonstrates the values appropriate to be recognised as an English higher education provider.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Additional public interest governance principles applicable to providers authorised with DAPs:


Records: Where degree awarding powers are solely contained in the provider’s governing documents, and no order either under section 76 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, or under HERA exists, the provisions setting out those powers must be retained and may not be altered without the consent of the OfS.25

Additional public interest governance principles applicable to providers in receipt of financial support from the OfS or from UKRI:


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.


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.


Fit and proper persons

A fit and proper person

  • is of good character
  • has the qualifications, competence, skills and experience that are necessary for their role;
  • is able by reason of their health, after reasonable adjustments are made, to properly perform the tasks of the office or position for which they are appointed
  • has not been responsible for, been privy to, contributed to, or facilitated any serious misconduct or mismanagement (whether unlawful or not) in their employment or in the conduct of any entity with which they are or have been associated.

The following are indicators that a person may not be a fit and proper person:

  • disqualification from acting as a company director, or from acting as a charity trustee, as set out in the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 or the Charities Act 2011
  • conviction of a criminal offence anywhere in the world26
  • subject of any adverse finding in civil proceedings, where relevant, including, but not limited to bankruptcy or equivalent proceedings (in the last three years)
  • subject of any adverse findings in any disciplinary proceedings by any regulatory authorities or professional bodies
  • involvement in any abuse of the tax systems
  • involvement with any entity that has been refused registration to carry out a trade or has had that registration terminated
  • involvement in a business that has gone into insolvency, liquidation or administration while the person has been connected with that organisation or within one year of that connection;
  • dismissal from a position of trust or similar
  • involvement with a higher education provider that has had its registration refused or revoked by the OfS or has had similar action taken against it by another regulator (this includes, but is not limited to, serving on a board/governing body, having voting rights, being a significant shareholder/owner, serving in a senior position, etc).

Regularity, propriety and value for money

For these purposes, the OfS takes regularity, propriety and value for money to mean:

  • Regularity: compliance with the relevant legislation (including State Aid legislation) and funds used only for the purpose for which they are given, and in compliance with any terms and conditions
  • Propriety: meeting high standards of public conduct, including the relevant Parliamentary expectations, especially
  • Value for money: meeting the need for efficiency, economy, effectiveness and prudence in the administration of public resources, to secure value for public money in relation to the public grant funding

25 This principle ensures that appropriate records are kept regarding degree awarding powers, where no order exists. This is primarily applicable to providers that obtained their powers before 1992, and/or that are incorporated via Royal Charter or a Private Act.

26 Based on reasonable enquiries by the provider in which individuals are asked to disclose all relevant matters that occurred in the UK and/or in a foreign jurisdiction. The OfS would not expect individuals to disclose matters that are ‘spent’ under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, but they may do so if they wish. Particular consideration will be given to offences of dishonesty, fraud, financial crime or an offence under legislation relating to higher education, further education and charities, whether or not in the UK.

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