Governance: OfS and standard student contract templates

The Office for Students (OfS), which is the main regulator of higher education in England, has been asked by the Department for Education to consider options for setting out students’ consumer rights in the form of standard contract templates. In a letter to OfS dated 16 September 2019 and titled ‘Strategic Guidance to the Office for Students – Ministerial priorities’, the Education Secretary for England stated: ‘Working with partners such as the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education and the Competition and Markets Authority, as well as with other experts in the field, I would like the OfS to review the effectiveness of current practice ensuring students’ consumer rights are supported, and in particular to consider options for standard contractual templates setting out these rights.’ According to the letter, the OfS is asked to report its conclusions on the matter of standard contractual templates and make initial recommendations to the government by February 2020. Amongst other matters, the letter also proposes further reforms to the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF), stating: ‘…I would like the OfS to publish subject level TEF in 2021. This should be alongside the implementation of a new TEF model to be developed following the publication of the government response to the Dame Shirley Pearce’s Independent Review of TEE undertaken under Section Read Full Article…

Governance: Government response to report on Bribery Act 2010

As reported in issue 101 of this newsletter, on 14 March 2019, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Bribery Act 2010 published its report ‘The Bribery Act 2010: post-legislative scrutiny’ as to whether the Act is achieving its intended purposes. Although the report concluded that ‘the Act is an excellent piece of legislation which creates offences which are clear and all-embracing’, a number of recommendations were made.  A summary of the conclusions and recommendations is available on page 107 of the report. On 13 May 2019, the government published its response to the review of the Act.  Although many of the responses simply noted the view of the committee, certain recommendations were rejected. For example, the recommendation that the Ministry of Justice should consider adding to its section 9 guidance, clearer examples of what might constitute acceptable corporate hospitality was rejected.  It is stated: ‘…the Government does not consider that it would be best placed to provide the bespoke, or more detailed clarification that the Committee suggests…’.  It also states: ‘The MoJ Guidance was drafted in a deliberately high-level, non-prescriptive way to encourage organisations to examine their own internal systems and procedures. As the Committee suggests, there are other organisations on a level closer to business such as professional organisations or trade associations that could provide sector specific Read Full Article…

Governance: UUK and NUS: report on BAME student attainment

Universities UK (UUK) and the National Union of Students (NUS) have published a report into the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) attainment gap in higher education and the action they propose is taken by universities to reduce it. The report, titled Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic student attainment at UK Universities: #closingthegap, states that it was produced after consultation with universities, student unions and external bodies, and: presents sector data on ethnicity and attainment discusses factors identified during the consultation as having an effect on ethnicity attainment differentials at degree level identifies steps that the UUK and NUS recommend are taken by universities as frameworks for accelerating progress provides brief guidance on how to implement positive action and ‘positive discrimination’ whilst complying with equality law, including examples of what types of action are likely to be lawful or unlawful. A number of briefings, reports and resources on BAME attainment, including equality and diversity data, are provided by the Office for Students (OfS) here.

Governance: Bribery Act 2010: post-legislative scrutiny

On 14 March 2019, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Bribery Act 2010 published its ‘Report of Session 2017-2019 The Bribery Act 2010: post-legislative scrutiny’ as to whether the Act is achieving its intended purposes.  The Select Committee was appointed by the House of Lords on 17 May 2018 to consider and report on the Bribery Act 2010.  The Act received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010 and came into force on 1 July 2011. In its principal conclusions and overall assessment, the report states that ‘the Act is an excellent piece of legislation which creates offences which are clear and all-embracing’, and the new offence of corporate failure to prevent bribery is regarded as ‘particularly effective’.  The report reviews the legislation and makes certain recommendations. The report highlights that the ‘Ministry of Justice Guidance’ (guidance), published under s.9 of the Act,  is less successful in providing SMEs with the information to assist them with adopting a formal anti-bribery policy, and could provide companies considering exporting with more assistance on the point at which hospitality would begin to influence the recipient’s course of action.   It is recommended that the guidance makes it clear that businesses need to conduct risk assessments, and provide staff training on procedures (see paragraph 194).  It is also recommended that the Secretary of State Read Full Article…

Governance: EHRC ‘Freedom of Expression’ guide for HEIs

On 2 February 2018, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a guide on Freedom of Expression for Higher Education Providers and Students’ Unions in England and Wales (the Guide).  In its introduction, the guide states that it ‘provides practical advice on how to protect free speech and makes it clear to students what they should expect from their institutions’.  The guide is aimed principally at: governing bodies of universities and other higher education providers students’ union trustees It states that it may also be of interest to others including academic staff, students’ union elected officers, individual students and speakers. In 2017, the House of Commons and House of Lords Joint Committee on Human Rights held an inquiry into the state of freedom of speech in UK universities.  It was found that: ‘…while restriction of freedom of expression was not a widespread issue, there were concerns around increased bureaucracy, and potential self-censorship from students on campus as a result of the Prevent duty guidance. They also flagged intolerant attitudes and violent protest as potential obstacles to free speech, as well as a potential conflict in interpretation and grey areas in some existing laws and guidance.’ (see page 5 of the Guide) Following concerns raised by the inquiry, in May 2018 the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Read Full Article…

Governance: October deadline for publication of plans under British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015

The British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015  (the ‘Act’) came into force in October 2015.  The Act aims to promote the use and understanding of British Sign Language (BSL) through the use of ‘National Plans’ to be published by the Scottish Ministers, and ‘Authority Plans’ to be published by each of the ‘listed authorities’.   Section 6 states that any reference to a ‘listed authority’ is to a (Scottish) public authority listed or described in the Schedule to the Act.  This includes ‘A body which is a “post-16 education body” for the purposes of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005.’   The Scottish Government Equality Unit has issued guidance and templates (the ‘Guidance’) specific to various types of organisation, including Scottish HEIs, to help them publish Authority Plans in accordance with the Act.   According to Section 3(1) of the Act, a listed authority must publish its first Authority Plan as soon as is reasonably practicable after the first National Plan is published, and in any case within no later than 12 months.  Scotland’s first National Plan was published on 24 October 2017.  Listed authorities therefore have until 23 October 2018 to publish their Authority Plans.   Section 2(2) states that an Authority Plan should: set out measures to be taken by the listed authority in relation to the Read Full Article…