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Investigation into student loans issued to those studying at franchised higher education providers

Inquiry

Higher education providers can create partnerships, or ‘franchises’, with other institutions to provide courses on their behalf.  These franchised providers are not required to register with the Office for Students (OfS), which regulates higher education. Lead providers keep responsibility for teaching quality and protecting students’ interests.

In 2022 and 2023, the Student Loans Company (SLC) and the Office for Students (OfS) identified fraudulent student loan claims involving a small number of franchised higher education providers, exposing systemic risks relating to franchised providers. The Government Internal Audit Agency has concluded that controls in this area were not strong enough, leaving the student loan system exposed to further fraud and abuse.

In 2018, the Committee warned that serious allegations of fraudulent practices at alternative providers showed that the Department for Education had not done enough to close down opportunities to play the system, allowing the sector to become a ‘chancer’s charter’. The report expected the then new OfS to learn these lessons when it took over responsibility for the alternative provider sector from the DfE.

Based on a National Audit Office (NAO) study on the controls over loans issued to students at franchised higher education providers, the Committee will take evidence from the DfE, OfS and the SLC on subjects including effective oversight of the sector, and fraud detection and prevention.

If you have evidence on these issues, please submit it here by 23:59 on Sunday 11 February 2024.

Please look at the requirements for written evidence submissions and note that the Committee cannot accept material as evidence that is published elsewhere.

Please note that the Committee is unable to investigate individual cases.