Regulating Financial Sustainability in Higher Education: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Higher Education Funding Council for England
HC 816, Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Session 2010-11
- National Audit Office (NAO)
- TSO (The Stationery Office)
The Higher Education Funding Council for England, the funder and regulator of the higher education sector, has overseen the financial sustainability of the sector through a period of growth in income and student numbers. It has taken a cost-efficient approach and delivered value for money in the context in which it has operated to date. However, the sector is facing a period of transition to a very different financial environment with an increased level of risk.
Detailed in 'Regulating Financial Sustainability in Higher Education (HC 816)', the Council has successfully:
contained the cost of its own regulatory activities;
minimised the burden of its activities on higher education institutions;
focused on supporting those institutions at highest risk; and
maintaining the confidence of the sector.
There is a wide variation in the financial performance of institutions. The Council's current assessment of financial sustainability of institutions provides effective coverage of medium-term risks but methods of detecting short term risks need reinforcing.
The Council does not routinely publish its assessments of individual institutions as part of its annual assessment of risk within the sector, and delays its naming of "at higher risk" institutions by at least three years to give them time to rectify their problems. Even so, some institutions in difficulty can take a long time to resolve their weaknesses.
The Council needs to consider:
the balance between protecting institutions and their students; and
enabling prospective students to take more informed decisions on where to study.
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