At the beginning of October HEFCE launched an updated version of its Register of higher education providers. It has been enhanced to improve users’ experience and cover a wider range of providers.

But we are often asked the same questions about the Register: ‘Why is it needed?’ and ‘Who exactly is it for?’

Why do we need a Register?

According to the dictionary, the noun ‘register’ means ‘an official list or record of names or items’. The HEFCE Register meets this definition. It currently lists over 600 providers of higher education, including:

Types of provider listed on the HEFCE register of providers

The Register is not, however, just a list of providers. It explains the powers that each provider has – can they award degrees? Can their students access publicly funded student loans and grants? It also makes clear what standards the provider has to meet as a result of having these powers.

The Register is helpful, therefore, for understanding the wide range of HE providers now delivering HE in England. The HE landscape in England is changing and developing quickly. The Government is keen to encourage new providers that can widen the choice available to students, and the Register is the authoritative source about this new landscape.

Who is it for?

Our research shows that the Register is being used extensively and has a wide range of users. It receives, on average, around 20,000 page views each month, making it the third most popular area of the HEFCE website.

Much of this use comes from Government or other Government agencies (including the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, the Student Loans Company, the Home Office, and UK Visas and Immigration). This usage reflects the primary purpose of the Register: it is the authoritative source of information on HE providers in England.

But the Register is not only being used by these groups. HE providers are using it to gain better understanding of potential partners; those with an interest in the overall shape of the HE sector are using it to look at new entrants to the sector; students studying at alternative providers are using it to see which courses are designated for student support.

We see potential for further use among international students, their sponsors and advisers. These people are not familiar with the diversity of HE in England, and the Register can help them, for example, to identify which providers have the ability to award degrees, or have been officially awarded the title of a University. In the coming months, we will be exploring how to publicise this opportunity to them. 

Recent changes to the Register

We launched the Register in 2014 and have been thinking about how to improve it.  At the start of 2015 we undertook a review and sought users’ views. This helped us to identify the following themes:

  • the need for improved search facilities
  • the need to be clear about the purpose of, and audience for, the Register
  • the need for more contextual information about each provider, and links to further information about that provider.

The review confirmed our feeling that the coverage of the Register needed to be expanded to include those providers that deliver higher education as a franchise. The latest version now includes publicly funded colleges in this category.

In the future we hope to extend the coverage further, and in the longer term, we are thinking about how we record providers that have, for one reason or another, left the sector.

The revised Register, launched on 7 October, is a step forward, but it is part of a continuing journey. We aim to keep pace with changing providers, changes to how the sector is regulated and with users’ needs.

We welcome feedback at all times. For any comments, please email registerofproviders@hefce.ac.uk.