Higher Education and Research Act is enacted before the dissolution of Parliament

The current Parliament today passed the Higher Education and Research Bill, ending the Bill’s ping-pong between both Houses. Later in the afternoon the Bill received Royal Assent, establishing it as an official Act of law.

Ministers raced against the clock to pass the Bill as part of the pre-election “wash up”, which also saw other significant pieces of legislation such as the Technical and Further Education Bill pass through both chambers.

During the final moments of its passage through the Lords, Viscount Younger remarked of the Bill:

 “It represents the most important legislation for the sector in 25 years.”

Central to the Act is the introduction next year of a new regulator and funding council for universities, named the Office for Students (OfS). The OfS will carry legislative responsibility for the quality and standards of university provision – this will include powers to assess the quality of university teaching, as well as to monitor the financial stability of higher education providers.

Also under the remit of the OfS will be management of the Register of Higher Education Providers – to this end the OfS will be empowered to approve new entrants into the higher education sector. The Act’s new regulatory architecture relaxes regulations to allow high quality entrants to enter the sector.

Pertinently, the Higher Education Commission is currently leading an inquiry to investigate innovation in new models of higher education provision. With the Higher Education and Research Act set to instigate huge regulatory changes, the Commission aims to  examine the distinctive features of new models of higher education, in particular provision taking place outside the ‘standard offer’ of the three year, campus based education aimed at 18 year olds.

The Higher Education Commission aims to provide further recommendations for the consideration of the new Government and the Office for Students in the near future.