Notifications

Universities and colleges which are registered with the Office for Students must meet certain requirements. If students, staff or members of the public believe that a university or college is not meeting these requirements, they can send us a notification.

What is a notification?

A notification is an important part of how we regulate universities and colleges.

Universities and colleges which are registered with the Office for Students must meet conditions. Among other things, they must, for example, deliver high quality teaching, follow practices which protect the interests of students, and be financially sustainable.

See what conditions universities or colleges should meet.

If students, staff, or members of the public feel that a university or college is not meeting these requirements, they can submit a notification to us.

But a notification is different from a complaint:

A complaint is made by a student, former student or another person, about concerns relevant to the university or college. These concerns could include, for instance, its facilities and services. Before contacting the OfS, where possible, you should first raise any concerns you have that are relevant to your university or college using its complaints process, and seek a solution using that process.

Read more about complaints

A notification to the OfS informs us, as the regulator for higher education in England, about concerns or issues you have about your university or college that are relevant to our regulatory remit.

Read our guide to notifications

Example issues

You can tell us about anything that is relevant to our regulatory remit. We are particularly interested in hearing about issues that are affecting whole courses or particular groups of students.

This is not a full list but will give you an idea of the type of concerns you can tell us about.

A course not being delivered in the way students had expected – for example, unexpected changes to what is taught, or concerns about the quality of teaching, the availability of resources, or the fairness of assessment.

Academic support not being available in the way students had expected – for example, a university or college’s personal tutoring system not working effectively and in the way set out in the course handbook.

Complaints from students not being considered on an individual basis or according to the university or college’s complaints policy.

Concerns about the way a university or college is being managed or run – for example, evidence of fraud, or conflicts of interest in decision-making processes.

Issues about fairness and equality – for example, if all students regardless of background are not able to participate and succeed in their courses; or concerns about the university or college failing to deliver the commitments made in its access and participation plan.

How to send a notification

To send a notification email: [email protected]

Before you send a notification:

  1. Read our guidance. This includes a checklist of actions.
  2. If you are not sure whether to submit a notification and would like to discuss your concern, please phone us on 0117 931 7317 or write to [email protected] outlining the issue and we can arrange to call you back.
  3. If you are submitting a notification on behalf of a student or a group of students, you should explain this so we can understand the extent of the issue you are telling us about.

We will not be able to update you on the progress or outcome of the issue that you have raised. Confirming or denying that we are investigating a concern could interfere with our ability to investigate effectively, for example by tipping off a university or college about our interest.

There are also legal constraints about what and how we share information about universities and colleges with third parties.

It is also possible that a single notification does not contain sufficient information to affect our regulatory view of a university or college, but may do so if further information were to come to light.

Some notifiers, such as whistle-blowers, may provide us with information but ask us to maintain their anonymity if we decide to investigate the matter. 

We are unable to provide protection for whistle-blowers. Our general approach is that we make every attempt to protect the identity of a notifier to a university or college, unless we are legally required to reveal it.

It is important to note that in some circumstances, the nature of the notification made may reveal a notifier’s identity, especially if the matter has been raised with the university or college directly. If you are worried that your identity could be revealed if we contact a university or college about your notification, then please let us know at the outset so that we can consider how best to proceed.

If you are contacting us from a university or college but not in an official capacity (i.e. personally and not on behalf of the university or college), please set this out clearly at the outset.

If you require further guidance and support about whistle-blowing, information can be found on protect-advice.org.uk.

Published 26 January 2021
Last updated 09 March 2021
09 March 2021
Link to past discussion sessions removed

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