Report published 7 March 2018. Awaiting Government response.
Scope of the inquiry
The Public Accounts Committee examined funding for students of alternative Higher Education providers in 2015 and found that some public money had been provided to ineligible students, whilst the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (who were responsible for Higher Education at the time) could not quantify how much money had been lost in funding students who did not complete courses. In June 2017 responsibility for Higher Education moved to the Department for Education.
A recent National Audit Office report reviewed the Government’s progress in overseeing alternative Higher Education providers. The report found that progress had been made towards reducing drop-out rates, but is still 15% higher than for the rest of the higher education centre. The report also found that, whilst payments to ineligible students have reduced, the Department for Education does not have specific enough data to measure properly the level of, or trends in, ineligible payments.
Oversight of alternative providers has improved, but progression rates for graduates from these institutions remain lower than those from publicly-funded providers. Under the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, a new Office for Students will soon come into being to take on responsibility for funding and regulating Higher Education, including alternative providers.
The Committee will ask representatives from the Department for Education, the Student Loans Company and the Office for Students (currently in the process of being established) about what further progress they can expect to make, how regulation can be better carried out in the future, and whether they have the data they need to monitor whether alternative Higher Education providers deliver to their students.