BIS has overall responsibility for ensuring delivery of the governments policy in higher education, science, and innovation. It provides funding received from the treasury for those in teaching and learning, in research, and knowledge exchange. BIS also distributes funding for activities in education research through Research Councils UK. Importantly, BIS directs and oversees the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) by providing a direction and guidance document. It also oversees the work of the not for profit Student Loan Company (SLC) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
BIS manages the process and awards of the degree-awarding powers and university college title and the decisions on eligibility for university HEFCE funding. For alternative providers, BIS also determines the processes of specific course designation and sets the controls on the number of students for a course and the student support systems.
HEFCE operates within a policy framework currently set by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). It is independent of government jurisdiction as a body, this helps HEFCE to act as a broker between the Government and universities.
This protects the autonomy of academia, which is regarded as a key factor in the success of English higher education.
HEFCE-funded institutions are assessed through the annual accountability returns process. Sometimes, HEFCE-funded institution are designated by HEFCE as ‘at higher risk’, and a support programme is implemented, this system ensures that all funded and recognised institutions are delivered to an exacting standard of excellence and creates a unified exacting standard.
It publishes the Register of Higher Education Providers online to provide an authoritative reference point of information collated from students to international governments.
There is a page for each provider showing it’s legal name, any operating names, it’s legal address and a website URL, together with a unique identifier for each provider – a UK Provider Reference Number, which helps to distinguish between similar sounding names. For universities with specific courses designated for the purpose of student support funding, the Register lists each designated course, its location, mode of study, duration, level and course name, and the name of the relevant validating or awarding body.
HEFCE also has a contract with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) to provide quality assurance of an independent method assessment for reviewing the quality of all HEFCE funded higher education.