Who’s small, specialist, and “world class”?

The decisions have been made - who will be in receipt of additional funding in recognition of their specialist nature?

David Kernohan is Deputy Editor of Wonkhe

There’s been a small, but world class, part of the English higher education sector that has been waiting for the OfS to validate just how “world class” it is.

Forty-four of them applied for this status back in the spring – in a process that required a substantial proportion of students at a provider within a stated specialism just to enter. Providers entered this competition in the hope of securing additional funding in a replacement to the old HEFCE classification-linked stream last reviewed in 2016.

This morning’s publication from the OfS goes through the panel’s deliberations in some detail. We know, for instance, that claims based on historic achievement (such as being “the first” provider to pioneer a particular approach) were not up to the mark. Arguing for contributions to industry worldwide, or arguing for the utility of the additional funding, also didn’t cut it.

In all, the panel selected just 20 providers for “world leading” status. Five providers join the pantheon – and split nearly £57m next year and £5m this year – with 15 that remain from the previous list. One provider – the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama – is on the current list, but will not be there for the next five years.

Going forward, the golden 20 will be:

  • University of the Arts, London
  • Contemporary Dance Trust Ltd
  • Courtauld Institute of Art
  • Cranfield University
  • Guildhall School of Music and Drama
  • Harper Adams University
  • Institute of Cancer Research
  • Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
  • London Business School
  • London Film School Ltd
  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • National Film and Television School
  • Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
  • Royal Academy of Music
  • Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  • Royal College of Art
  • Royal College of Music
  • Royal Northern College of Music
  • Royal Veterinary College
  • Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Each of these providers needs to maintain an Approved (Fee Cap) registration and continue to meet the initial eligibility criteria for five years. Those outside of the charmed circle will need to wait until 2027 for the list to be reviewed.

For the 20, within the constraints of affordability (as per government allocations to OfS) allocations will be maintained. Those new to this stream will also receive the lion’s share of the £5m transitional funding for 2021-22.

As regards transitional funding the following year, for providers newly outside of specialist provider funding – those affected have been written to in order that OfS can “gain assurance” about how the funding would be used.

Though many providers offer specialised provision – the logistics of a purely specialist offer often lead to further costs. For this reason it is notable that specialist performing arts providers have been successful on this occasion – all providers offering creative arts and media provision have lost strategic subject funding this year,

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