Tedious Takeover, Regulatory Style

September 19th, 2019

Motto: for your own safety and security

In 2017, the UK has enacted a shiny new Act1 that became effective this very year (2019), in April. The core of it is to make it abundantly clear that higher education in the UK has not much left in common with the ancient tradition of focusing on learning and advancing knowledge. Instead, the new Act states clearly that the very term "higher education"2 will by law apply only to those who submit humbly and fully to the newly created Office for Students (OfS) whose stated "four primary regulatory objectives" read:

All students, from all backgrounds, and with the ability and desire to undertake higher education:
1. Are supported to access, succeed in, and progress from, higher education.
2. Receive a high quality academic experience, and their interests are protected while they study or in the event of provider, campus or course closure.
3. Are able to progress into employment or further study, and their qualifications hold their value over time.
4. Receive value for money.

Do you see anywhere in there anything at all about knowledge? Anything at all about personal improvement even? Sure, if you *already* define your "learning" along the lines of "academic experience", your "knowledge" along the lines of "qualifications" and your personal improvement along the lines of "progress into employment or further study", I guess you are plenty served there, fully protected and well looked after. After all, the less "you" there is left, the less trouble you can ever get into. Just progress between these walls here and those walls there - we're building more walls too, don't worry, you'll never have to go outside of any walls really - just stay between the walls and enjoy the... experience, I guess? Oh, it's called academic experience, just so you know, it's all the rage to have one or two or even three of those now, so go for it! And never mind the money either, since you'll receive value for it, the OfS has it written right there, at point 4, ok? Not to mention that having a huge debt will be all the rage by the time you finish the ... experience.

To move further from the above - if you can, because honestly, by this point and under those definitions I already lost all interest in having anything to do with this particular brand of "higher education" - let's see exactly what does this OfS really do and when would you actually have to suffer them around. Perhaps it's just for those institutions that are indeed not independent anyway but fully public-funded and thus perhaps quite rightly saddled with all the attendant indignities? But of course not, no, why stop there! And how *can* there even be - says the bureaucrat arching his eyebrows in extreme surprise - recognised education outside of the state-mandated experience? No, such thing is not to be tollerated3 and therefore, any institution that wants to be able to award its own degrees has to register, bow and bend over for the OfS to consider it at will. Even for that procedure there is some prescribed progression, of course, and while the wad of paper doesn't go quite as far as saying that nothing else than *that* particular form of worship will do, it can't fully keep itself in check either and so makes a note that if the route taken is not the "typically" taken route, then you should talk to them first, before even applying (let's all chant now, the logical why: for your own safety and security!). Just in case you were curious, the "typical" route for an institution applying for its own degree awarding powers is to have been first for at least 4 consecutive years in a validating/franchising agreement with a degree awarding institution.

Trying still to look at more palatable options, I looked first at what exactly is included in "degree" and here it is: anything foundation and bachelor's (aka undergraduate) as well as master's and doctorate. So what's left? Well, you could in principle go for something like "further education" that is supposedly filling the gap between finishing school and going into either higher education or work. But of course, that doesn't have much to do with anything at the end of the day and moreover, if you actually do take in those under 18, you end up in the other (even wider, since more established already) wad of regulatory paper - experience-ensuring for children since they are not classed as adults.

While I read further and further through a lot of tediousness, I really can't summon any reason to further spend time on dissecting it here since there's no benefit I can see from it. Given the above, I'd rather make my own "institution" altogether since dissociating from those4 is a benefit all in itself but if you really see some path that might still be worth to follow in there, please leave a comment.

And if you are here in search of what once used to be called higher education (and is called so no more), have a look at younghands.club and The Pageboy's Pledge and come talk to me.


  1. It's called HERA to stand supposedly for Higher Education and Research Act 

  2. Also related, "reserved" words: university, university college, accredit and derived words, polytechnic, university centre. 

  3. and for very valid reasons, I suspect, since imagine the trouble then - you might get some pesky real thing that you can't control and then what are you going to do?? 

  4. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure that "university" is worth claiming back given its roots; if anything, I suppose I'd go for "academy" but even that is used around here, in the usual maddeningly confusing way, for some sort of school-trusts; overall my already-chosen younghands.club domain stands probably best as it is, after all