Dear Mr Bassie,
I read your article on the new education oversight for privately funded colleges in the United Kingdom. I am currently employed at such an institution and I was hoping that you could provide me with some specific details with respect to the oversight as I am considering leaving the privately funded college to work in a publicly funded college.
Any advice would be appreciated.
Thank you for reading my article and for the follow-up question.
I will endeavour to give you some more details as these assessments are quite important to the sustainability of the privately funded colleges.
The privately funded colleges will be required to undergo a four-year assessment cycle. Those colleges that had applied to a designated educational oversight body prior to the September 2011 deadline - or before May 28, 2012, for colleges in Scotland - will receive an initial full assessment by the end of 2012, beginning their four-year cycle. After this, these sponsors will be required to undergo a full assessment in 2016, and every fourth year thereafter, unless there has been a material change in circumstances.
In addition, educational oversight bodies will now introduce risk-based interim health checks. These health checks will be a light-touch, shortened version of a full assessment, with the format being devised independently by each of the individual oversight bodies. The checks are designed to ensure educational standards and quality are being maintained throughout the four-year cycle without imposing the burden of a full assessment. The fees for these health checks will be set by the educational oversight bodies on a cost-recovery basis. The educational oversight bodies will determine the notice given for the health-check visit, but they may be carried out without notice, or at short notice. It should be noted that each educational oversight body will make available a report of every health check on their website.
Furthermore, all privately funded colleges that are assessed in 2012 will be required to undergo an initial health check in 2013. This is to ensure that standards remain on track. Further health checks will take place annually but may be made on a two-year cycle if the relevant oversight body has determined that the sponsor meets the highest educational standards. This will mean that in this first four-year cycle, a sponsor who is deemed to be performing well in 2013 will not need to undergo a further health check until 2015.
Conversely, if the privately funded sponsor no longer meets acceptable standards, then it will fail the health check. Their confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) allocation will be frozen, and the institution will be required to submit within 30 days an action plan to remedy deficiencies. It should be noted that during this time, the sponsor will be unable to sponsor any new international students; however, the sponsor can continue to help students who are already studying with the institution. If any existing students need to extend their leave in order to complete their current course, the sponsor can apply for a CAS to assign to them using the sponsorship-management system.
If a sponsor finds itself in this predicament, it will then be given the option of applying for a full assessment within a short period of time. The maximum time given would be six months, which will restart their four-year assessment cycle. It should be noted that if the sponsor is successful and passes the full assessment, then the institution will have its CAS allocation reassigned. However, those who fail, or choose not to apply, will be made legacy sponsors, that is, the institution will not be able to sponsor any new students. Also, the educational oversight bodies will retain the discretion to require a full assessment and/or health check at any time if they consider the circumstances warrant it.
With respect to any material change in circumstances, the educational oversight bodies will provide details of the specific material changes, which will lead to sponsors being required to undergo an early full assessment part-way through the four-year cycle. These changes are likely to include, but are not limited, to a significant and sudden increase in student numbers (international and/or EU/EEA) major changes in course provision, which would include any changes to awarding bodies or organisations and mergers or acquisitions of a new branch that is planned to be included in the existing sponsorship arrangement.
There are some other changes that might be considered as part of the next scheduled health check, and these might include significant increases in premises, a change of proprietor, and major changes in teaching staff and accommodation arrangements for students.
It should be noted that any failure to report a material change of circumstances may be regarded by the agency as a failure of the sponsor's duties.
I hope this information assists you.
John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a Supreme court-appointed mediator, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a Chartered Arbitrator, a justice of the peace and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (UK). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org