English regulator wins ‘landmark victory’ against college

OfS decision to block loan access at Bloomsbury Institute over quality concerns was lawful, court says

March 12, 2020

The English regulator has won a “landmark victory” after a court backed its decision to block a for-profit college from accessing public student loans over quality concerns.

The decision is a boost to the Office for Students’ (OfS) registration regime, confirming that its decision to refuse registration to Bloomsbury Institute over quality and management concerns was lawful.

The OfS has been facing several legal challenges from institutions refused inclusion on its register of providers – its central regulatory mechanism. Institutions must listed on the register for their students to access funding from the Student Loans Company.

The Bloomsbury Institute decision was handed down in the Royal Courts of Justice on 12 March.

Nicola Dandridge, OfS chief executive, said: “We welcome the court’s decision, which is also a good result for students. All registration decisions are taken after a thorough and robust assessment process.

“In Bloomsbury’s case, the outcomes delivered for its students were poor and did not satisfy our requirements. The High Court has found that decision, and our approach to assessing student outcomes, to be entirely proportionate, rational and lawful.

“Today’s ruling is a landmark victory for the OfS and sets an important precedent. Students from all backgrounds embarking on a higher education course should have the confidence that their course will offer them opportunities that enhance their lives and careers.”

She also said the judgment “sends a strong message to any provider seeking to defend poor quality provision before the courts. The OfS will not hesitate to defend its decisions robustly where they are in the interests of students and will seek to recover its costs in doing so.”

The OfS said that an “assessment of Bloomsbury’s student data returns found that 30.2 per cent of students starting degree courses at Bloomsbury between 2014-15 and 2016-17 did not continue their studies into a second year”, while of students graduating in 2015-16 and 2016-17, “only 32.7 per cent progressed into professional or managerial jobs or went on to postgraduate study”.

John Fairhurst, academic principal and managing director of Bloomsbury Institute, said: “We are, of course, extremely disappointed that the court has ruled that the OfS’ decision was lawful.

“We sought a judicial review because the refusal to register discriminates against institutions that specialise in serving students from diverse backgrounds and lower income households, who are all too often excluded from studying at degree level.

“We are absorbing the judgment and considering our appeal options.”

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (3)

This judgement leaves a question mark over how disadvantaged students might access state funded higher education and how supporters of "widening access" can achieve their aims. Do we seek to extend the concept of Special Educational Needs beyond the age of 18? Who would fund the additional cost?
Strange how the OfS cover up the many complaints it refused but were ultimately successfully mitigated....And the OfS omits the confirmations of 68% of graduates who DID NOT FIND their UNI VALUE FOR MONEY! Cartel protected to ensure young vulnerable consumers are misled and deceived into lifelong unpayable debts.
Strange how the OfS cover up the many complaints it refused but were ultimately successfully mitigated....And the OfS omits the confirmations of 68% of graduates who DID NOT FIND their UNI VALUE FOR MONEY! Cartel protected to ensure young vulnerable consumers are misled and deceived into lifelong unpayable debts.

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