Uniac - July 2022

22 At the same time, the burden of enforcement would shift away from students. Currently, if a university is in breach of consumer protection law, it is down to students to raise individual complaints to the CMA. New guidance or a reworded regulatory condition would allow the OfS to make more proactive and sector-wide interventions on students’ behalf. This move would also allow the OfS to broaden the scope of the guidance (and thereby their enforcement powers) to all student groups. The CMA’s 2015 advice only applies to undergraduate students despite universities having legal obligations towards its entire student body. This is a clear shortfall that the CMA has not addressed, even in its November 2021 statement. Lastly, in authoring their own guidance, the OfS would have far greater control in the design and implementation of institutions’ compliance with consumer protection laws. We highlight some areas below that we believe will help institutions develop a comprehensive and balanced approach to their compliance with consumer protection law. CMA’s 24th November statement Firstly, given the recent releases, providers should familiarise themselves with the CMA’s statement and guidance and take action to review and change their terms and conditions where necessary. Scope of compliance Most institutions manage their compliance with consumer protection laws as part of their wider arrangements for OfS compliance. For best practice, and to ensure full compliance with the law, institutions should ensure that all student groups are included within this remit. This is usually straightforward for undergraduate and postgraduate taught students (for which the CMA guidance is easier to apply). Nonstandard provision (such as CPD, PGR, and apprenticeships) can prove more challenging as these courses often follow different admissions and delivery patterns. Addressing these areas will ensure that institutions are prepared for potential changes in the OfS’ regulatory approach. Reducing burden It is important to recognise that the CMA’s guidance is not designed to prevent or discourage programmes from making changes or to stifle innovation. Instead, the guidance seeks to ensure that any changes are open, fair, and endorsed by those they affect. Institutions with a mature and embedded approach may wish to explore ways to reduce the burden of compliance in ways that are more amenable to course innovation and development. A good starting point would be to review the changes to key processes (e.g. course approval and course amendments) that were made during the Covid-19 disruption. Institutions may Good practice