Finding “outstanding” higher education providers in England

But do they have it printed on a banner fastened to the outside of a building?

David Kernohan is Deputy Editor of Wonkhe

Just nine OfS registered providers are judged by the government to be “outstanding”.

And they are – of course – Barnsley College, Farnborough College of Technology, Truro and Penrith College, Arts University Bournemouth, the Arts Educational Schools, the Northern School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, Weston College, and Teesside University.

This is according, at least, to Ofsted – who, among their better known roles, also conduct reviews of registered higher education providers.

Gold TEF rated providers are very slightly more likely to get the highest (one, or “outstanding”) rating from Ofsted, but there are two providers with TEF Gold and a three (requires improvement) for overall effectiveness.

[Full screen]

Ofsted will review any provider that offers any further education or apprenticeship training up to level 7. This includes numerous providers that offer these types of provision alongside traditional higher education. The selection protocol is quite OfS-like, in that data, notifications, or other evidence are used to select providers – and there is a presumption towards inspections of larger providers. To this we add the results of the previous review – providers rated “good” or better may instead see a streamline “short inspection” as opposed to the full deal. Indeed, until 2020, providers rated “outstanding” would not get another inspection at all.

Unlike recent OfS activity, Ofsted reviews are explicitly reviews of the provider – not just the staff or structures that support FE and apprenticeship learning (it also looks at subcontracted out provision). There’s no attempt to limit coverage to particular subject areas or levels, outside of the main definition.

What you’re all thinking right now is that OfS has carefully carved out the right to

use information from, and the views of, other regulators or funding bodies to inform its decisions about initial registration and ongoing monitoring of providers, where this is consistent with HERA (para 36 of the Regulatory Framework)

There are two providers (Hertfordshire and Wolverhampton) that have a current “requires improvement” from Ofsted and have recently been inspected (or at least, part of their provision has been inspected) by OfS. But there’s no evidence that this is happening systematically.

One response to “Finding “outstanding” higher education providers in England

  1. This might be a topic to comment on in the current Big Listen but worth noting that the duty of Ofsted to inspect FE corporations dates back to the 2006 Education and Inspections Act.

    Ofsted’s FE and Skills Handbook limits the scope of inspections to courses overseen by FE regulators (in the main) but Ofsted’s judgements get interpreted as a verdict on the whole institution (by DfE in its oversight policy, by the Home Office in its sponsorship decisions) and this isn’t the only area where the boundaries between OfS and other DfE group regulators are messy. OfS relies on ESFA to oversee the financial sustanibility of colleges on its register.

Leave a Reply