Protecting students if universities close

If a university or other higher education provider is at risk of leaving the higher education sector, it should already have plans in place to make sure its students have the opportunity to continue studying.

All universities and colleges registered with the Office for Students must have a student protection plan setting out how students would be protected in a range of different circumstances, and publish that plan so that all students can see it.

Consultation on student protection directions

We have consulted on a new approach to enable us to intervene more quickly and in a targeted way when we consider that a university or college is at increased risk of leaving the higher education sector. This is in addition to the requirements we already have regarding student protection plans.

We call these ‘market exit’ cases. They can occur at any time for lots of reasons but may be more likely than normal as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

We consulted because the risk to students arising from market exit cases is currently increased, but we would have consulted on these proposals in any case to ensure that we can protect the interests of students as a matter of routine.

Read more about the proposals

The aim of our proposals is to make sure students are better protected if their university or college is at risk of exiting the market, for example if it needed to close.

If this were to happen to your university or college, it should have plans in place that would allow you to continue studying (which might involve transferring to another provider).

If the OfS considers that a university or other higher education provider is at an increased risk of exiting the market and we do not think its plans to support students are sufficient, the proposed new condition would enable us to take action quickly to make sure students interests are protected if the worst happens.

The full extent of the disruption caused by coronavirus cannot be predicted and it is too soon to understand the financial impact it may have on universities and colleges.

We are monitoring the impact closely and universities and colleges must report any new short-term financial issues to us.

We are bringing forward proposals relating to market exit now to make sure that we are able to protect students if universities and colleges face problems in the future. However, we would have consulted on these proposals regardless of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read our FAQs for universities and colleges about the consultation


Published 17 July 2020
Last updated 10 November 2020
10 November 2020
Page updated to reflect the end of the consultation.

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