For-profit college finally registered with OfS after court battle

Bloomsbury Institute added to English register after Court of Appeal quashed Office for Students’ original refusal

October 30, 2020
Royal Courts of Justice
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A for-profit college can now access public students loans after winning a legal challenge against England’s regulator in August.

The Bloomsbury Institute has been added to the register of English higher education providers, a requirement for it to recruit publicly funded students, after having been rejected initially by the Office for Students over concerns about quality and management.

The OfS took issue with the continuation rates between the first and second years of study at the institution and student progression into professional and managerial employment.

The Bloomsbury Institute applied for a judicial review, stating that this amounted to discrimination against institutions that specialise in serving students from diverse backgrounds and lower-income households. The court found in favour of the OfS in February 2020.

In August, however, the Court of Appeal announced that it had quashed the decision and ordered the OfS to reconsider the institution’s application. The Court of Appeal said that the staff who set the baselines and thresholds for continuation rates and student progression did not have the authority to do so and that the methodology should have been published and consulted on.

The OfS has now approved registration of the provider, with two specific ongoing conditions relating to student continuation. These conditions mean that the Bloomsbury Institute must put in place credible targets with clear milestones for how it will improve and sustain levels of continuation for all current and prospective students.

A spokesman for the OfS said the Bloomsbury Institute was registered by the OfS “because it satisfied each of the relevant initial conditions of registration”.

“The OfS’ judgement in relation to our condition on student outcomes was finely balanced. In reaching a conclusion, we considered – among other things – improvements in continuation rates at the Bloomsbury Institute in the most recent year for which data are available to the OfS,” he said.

“Our assessment of future risk for this condition is such that we have imposed two specific conditions of registration…We will continue to proactively and closely monitor compliance with these conditions.”

John Fairhurst, managing director and academic principal of the Bloomsbury Institute, said the institution was “delighted” with the decision “that allows us to continue teaching and supporting students from diverse backgrounds who are all too often excluded from higher education”.

“Our purpose remains unchanged: to unlock the potential of every student and help them develop the skills, knowledge and capabilities they need to flourish in work and life,” he said.

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