Further Education and Higher Education

Department for Education written question – answered on 20 September 2023.

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Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Conservative, Totnes

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps her Department is taking to support students whose multi year college and university courses are cancelled prior to their completion.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Minister of State (Education)

The government established the Office for Students (OfS) as the independent regulator for higher education (HE) in 2018. As a pre-condition for registration, the OfS requires all HE providers to submit student protection plans for approval. This means that all HE providers registered with the OfS must have a student protection plan in place.

Student protection plans set out what students in HE can expect to happen should a course, campus, or institution close. The purpose of a plan is to ensure that students can continue and complete their studies, or can be compensated if this is not possible.

In the event of a change in a provider’s circumstances, such as a significant course closure or a campus closure, the OfS will work closely with the provider and its students to ensure that students’ interests continue to be protected. Universities have previously worked to reduce the impact on students in a variety of ways, many universities have awarded degrees when they have enough evidence of a student’s prior attainment to do so. Others have assigned provisional grades to students to allow them to progress.

Where a student complaint cannot be resolved through the institution’s own complaint processes, the student can ask for their complaint to be reviewed by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education in England (OIA), which was set up to review student complaints about higher education providers in England. The OIA's website gives details about eligibility criteria and how to make a complaint.

Further education colleges are autonomous organisations, therefore they are responsible for the management of their operations. If a college has to withdraw a course, or if there is a change to the course provision, we would expect college course leaders to give affected students as much help and support as possible to find a suitable alternative course.

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