Help us improve our engagement with the sector

Open, two-way, dialogue with the sector we regulate is essential for regulation that works effectively in the interest of students.

That’s why we’re building on our refreshed approach to communication and engagement with institutions with a new piece of research to test the impact of the changes we’ve already made.

What have we been doing?

It’s been almost a year since we started to act on the recommendations from our initial research on our engagement with higher education institutions.

Since then, we’ve visited almost 100 universities and colleges, of all types, right across England. I’m consistently impressed by the staff I meet on my visits – colleagues working hard to deliver life-changing education to students from all backgrounds. And those students are invariably eloquent about the opportunities they see for their futures and the challenges they face while they’re studying.

I’ve been struck by the wide-spread interest in understanding the OfS’s work better. We’ve discussed newer areas, such as freedom of speech. And we’ve discussed more familiar topics: the financial challenges facing the sector and the OfS’s role in understanding and acting on these. It’s been invaluable to hear the perspectives of institutions on these issues – and to use those insights as we develop our work.

We’re clear that these visits are here to stay, with more already scheduled through to the end of the academic year.

But there’s more to our refreshed approach to engagement than our programme of visits. We’ve welcomed around 4,500 people from across the sector at our events over the past year. We’ve met students and their elected representatives; vice-chancellors, principals, and their senior teams; and chairs and members of governing bodies.

Many of these events – including our ‘Introduction to the OfS’ events aimed at those new to our work – were inspired by our initial research or the things we’ve heard during our visits.

Again, we have more events planned, with our focus just now on drawing on sector expertise in a series of workshops as we develop our next OfS strategy.

What are we doing next?

We’ve expended a lot of time and effort in building relationships and improving the way we work with the sector. But we need to know that our approach is working – that it’s delivering the open, two-way, dialogue that we all want to see.

That’s why, today, we’ve asked heads of institutions to volunteer to take part in a new piece of research to test the impact of the changes we’ve already made. We think it’s important to understand how those changes are feeling to institutions and to identify things we can improve further.

We’re looking forward to publishing this research in the autumn and we plan to commission follow-up surveys on these issues into the future.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank everybody who contributed to the initial research, everybody involved in hosting our visits, and everybody who found time in a busy diary to attended one of our events.

I’m keen to hear your thoughts on all of this while I’m out and about. Or you can get in touch with my colleagues at [email protected].

Improving how we’re connected with each other, and tending to our relationships, is the route to effective regulation in the interests of students. And I know that’s an ambition we at the OfS share with the institutions we regulate.


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Published 25 April 2024

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