New OfS condition C4: Student Protection Directions

Following a consultation in 2020, the Office for Students introduced a new Condition of Registration on 1 April 2021. This relates to what are called “Student Protection Directions” which can now be imposed where the higher education provider “will, or will be required by the operation of law to, fully or substantially cease the provision of higher education in England”.

Although it appears that the consultation was not fully supported by institutions, the OfS deemed that that interests of students took precedence and took the decision to extend the Conditions of Registration for all registered higher education providers. Further Education institutions (as defined) are excluded.

Student Protection Directions are defined to include:

  • a special type of plan called a “Market Exit Plan”;
  • Student Protection Measures (see below); and
  • other consequential, ancillary or incidental actions.

Student Protection Measures are measures which the OfS reasonably considers are proportionate in the context of Market Exit Risk and include arrangements for: teach out; student transfer; exit awards and unit certification; information, advice and guidance for students; complaints; refunds and compensation; and, archiving arrangements.

This is a considerable new power for the OfS to intervene in the management of a higher education institution in the event of risk of a registered provider ceasing to provide higher education in England.

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