The government will commission research to give “a comprehensive picture of HE provision by private and alternative suppliers” as it invites them to play a bigger role in the new higher education market.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has published a call for expressions of interest in conducting the research, giving a closing date of 4 January.
In a document on its website, BIS refers to a previous report by the Higher Education Policy Institute, saying this report noted of US private providers that “three quarters of students were women” and “80 per cent were over 25 years old”.
The Hepi report also stated US private providers had a “disproportionate number of students from low income backgrounds; higher default rates; and [a] relatively narrow range of subjects”, BIS says.
On the UK research, BIS says: “The overall aim of the project is to provide a comprehensive picture of HE provision by private and alternative suppliers, including information about the students who study with them.”
Private providers – including for-profit operators – could be set for a major injection of public funding via the student loan system following moves announced in the government’s higher education White Paper.
BIS says the research will need to provide “a comprehensive picture of private providers”, including courses offered, fee levels and research; plus detail on student numbers by domicile, level of study and course.
The study must also provide “a robust picture of students” including “demographics (age, sex, disability, social class); employment status; salary; fees and finance”.
And it should also “provide a good understanding of the student experience in private HE, including: motivation for study in HE/private HE; experience/satisfaction; outcomes; destinations or intentions”.
BIS says the two top criteria for judging expressions of interest will be “experience of carrying out research with HE institutions, in particular with private providers”, and “experience of carrying out research with HE students, in particular those studying in private provision”.
Invitations to tender will be issued in the week of 9 January, with notification of outcome in the week of 30 January, BIS says.
The call for expressions of interest can be viewed here.