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The English sector regulator has promised to “refresh” its engagement with universities after an independent review found that it was perceived as hostile, high-handed and too led by ministerial directions.

Many higher education providers also claimed that they were “confused by the complexity of some [Office for Students] processes, communications and consultations”, with missives described as “lengthy and difficult to unpick” and containing “regulatory requirements [taking] up a significant administrative resource”.

“Long forms requiring the same information to be inputted multiple times, and extremely short timescales for the return of documents followed by long waits for a response or for clarifications which could hold up a process for many months” were also identified as problems by the report from Shift Learning, a consultancy that interviewed 32 senior university leaders about the OfS, which was created in 2018 with the aim of providing “light-touch” regulation for established institutions.

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