Regulatory framework

Securing student success: Regulatory framework for higher education in England

Last updated: 24 November 2022

PART IV – Validation, degree awarding powers and university title



The OfS will undertake an assessment of the operation of the current validation system to identify any unnecessary barriers for providers seeking a validation partner, or any areas of current practice that are not in the interests of students. Where it is possible to intervene to remove or mitigate such barriers, and to ensure that students are protected, the OfS will take action at a sector-wide level. This might include increasing transparency of the operation of validation system or setting out exemplar validation arrangements to help informed negotiation between prospective validators and providers that seek validation. Where the OfS concludes that such interventions are not sufficient to secure improvements it deems necessary in the operation of the validation system, it will make use of its powers under section 50 of HERA to enter into commissioning arrangements. It may also ask the Secretary of State to make regulations under section 51 of HERA to authorise the OfS to enter into validation agreements with registered higher education providers itself.

Commissioning arrangements


The OfS has been granted powers to enter into commissioning arrangements with registered providers requiring those providers to offer to enter into validation arrangements in respect of some or all of the taught awards they are authorised to grant. For the purposes of section 50 of HERA, ‘validation arrangements’ are arrangements between one registered higher education provider and another registered provider under which the first provider:


Grants a taught award to a person who is a student at the other provider.


Authorises the other provider to grant a taught award on behalf of the first provider.


The OfS cannot force a provider to enter into a commissioning arrangement, and it will only enter into a commissioning arrangement with a provider that has the knowledge, experience, and intellectual capital to award the relevant qualifications. Such a provider must have the necessary degree awarding powers to award those qualifications.


To put in place commissioning arrangements, the OfS will:


Seek expressions of interest from qualified registered providers willing to enter into a commissioning arrangement.


Assess the expressions of interest against published criteria that include the appropriateness of the provider to address the gaps in validation provision that the OfS has identified.


Select one or more suitable providers to provide the required validations services.


Set out the terms and conditions that apply to the commission arrangements in a ‘commissioning agreement’ between the OfS and the selected provider.


The OfS may use its powers to fund registered providers under section 39 of HERA to incentivise appropriate providers to enter into commissioning arrangements.

Validation by the OfS


If authorised by regulations made under section 51, the OfS will consult on the most appropriate way in which to exercise this function. It is expected that the OfS would operate a validation service similarly to other validators, to the extent that this is consistent with any conditions in the regulations. Therefore, it is expected that the OfS would enter into contractual validation agreements with individual providers. Students would be taught by their provider, with the OfS having no involvement in day to day teaching. However, as the OfS will act as the degree awarding body, it will be responsible for the academic standards of any awards granted in its name, and for the quality of the academic experience.

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