1.1. The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 requires Higher Education Institutions to maintain a Student Protection Plan to protect students’ interests in the case of material change, e.g. programme changes, suspensions, closures, or institutional closure.
1.2. Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU) is committed to helping students (‘you’) to achieve the best academic outcomes from their studies. Events may occasionally occur that result in unforeseen changes having to be made to modules or programmes and provision for such events is detailed within BGU Student Agreement. The measures outlined in this plan are a starting point, should you be materially impacted by changes to provision at BGU. We would also develop a specific, targeted action plan to take into account the needs of those involved.
1.3. Should you need to transfer course, or move to another institution, there are likely to be implications for student finance arrangements. The University’s Student Advice team will be notified of any events that trigger the implementation of this plan. Student Advice would then contact you to provide detailed information, advice and guidance based on your individual circumstances.
1.4. We are committed to communicating any changes to programmes as early as possible, with clear information and options. To help you, all reasonable steps will be taken to minimise the disruption to services. These include, for example:
- delivering a modified version of the same course;
- offering you the chance to move to another course;
- providing assistance to assist you to switch to a different provider.
1.5. BGU works with a number of collaborative partners. All collaborative arrangements are subject to regular Institutional Approvals carried out by BGU. These include a review of the financial, governance and quality provisions of providers. The health of the academic programmes offered through these collaborative arrangements is monitored though Annual Monitoring Reports and work by Link Tutors. These arrangements enable BGU and our collaborative partners to work together to ensure that the partnerships are sound, viable and offer you a quality student experience.
1.6. If you are studying at Grantham College, this is a franchise arrangement and you are a formal student of BGU. The college has its own Student Protection Plan. Should an incident occur that affects Grantham College’s ability to deliver teaching, the College’s plan would initially come into operation (e.g. loss of key staff or part of the College’s teaching and learning spaces or IT systems). We will, however, work with the College to assist in minimising any disruption to your studies. Should it be decided that the programme on which you are studying will not continue, we will work with the College and those affected to manage the withdrawal of the programme and minimise the impact on the students affected. In this instance, the measures outlined in this plan would come into operation. For further details on BGU’s franchise arrangements with Grantham College and validated programmes offered through other providers, please see our Collaborative Register at: https://www.bgu.ac.uk/document-download/61878
1.7. This plan has been developed with input from a range of BGU staff (including academic and professional support staff) and representatives from the Students’ Union.
2. Evidence used to inform this plan
2.1. Underlying this plan is a risk assessment of factors that might potentially have a material impact on your studies at BGU. We have worked to ensure it addresses BGU’s specific circumstances. The risk assessment is informed by internal and external scrutiny through, for example:
- meetings of the University Council and its sub-committees (see for instance: https://www.bgu.ac.uk/about-bgu/governance/university-council);
- BGU’s financial accounts (https://www.bgu.ac.uk/about-bgu/governance/university-governance/financial-reports-information;
- assurance checks by regulatory bodies such as Ofsted (https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/70004) and the British Psychological Society;
- BGU’s Higher Education Review (HER) from 2016 (see https://www.qaa.ac.uk/reviewin...).
3. Risk Assessment – Institutional Risk
3.1. The Office for Students(OfS) has asked all Higher Education Institutions to consider risks that may impact on their ability to continue to operate at an institutional level, specifically:-
- No longer being able to operate or intending to operate (Institutional Risk 1);
- No longer being able to award the qualifications because the OfS has varied or revoked degree awarding powers (Institutional Risk 2).
In addition, BGU is currently working towards achieving Research Degree Awarding Powers. The University of Leicester is our validating partner. The risk of the loss of this partner has been referenced as Institutional Risk 3.
3.2. We have assessed the above risks using evidence from:
- The Higher Education Funding Council For England’s Annual Assurance Assessment of BGU (received in 2018);
- Our current financial position and future financial forecasts ;
- Our established disaster planning and business continuity plans;
- External validation reports of our provision (see section 2.1 above);
- The University of Leicester’s 2017 review of research provision at BGU.
3.3. The Higher Education Funding Council For England (HEFCE)
The HEFCE Annual Provider Review 2016-17 outcomes letter confirmed that, based on our December 2017 return, we are ‘not at higher risk’ in terms of financial sustainability, good management and governance matters.
As noted in the Financial Forecast paper presented to Council in July 2017, we continue to seek to grow student numbers. However, given external pressures and an ever changing market, a comprehensive review of student numbers was undertaken in 2017. A reduced growth trajectory has been considered and this has been built into the strategic plan refresh for 2017/18 onwards.
Our accounts are approved by external auditors on a ‘going concern’ basis and submitted, formerly to HEFCE and now, to OfS for scrutiny.
3.5. Quality of Provision (as evidenced through external assessment)
- The HER report (in 2016) on Bishop Grosseteste University confirmed that the setting and maintenance of the academic standards of our own awards and the maintenance of the academic standards of the awards offered on behalf of our research degree-awarding body meet UK expectations. In addition, the report noted best practice in relation to the integrated, institution-wide academic and pastoral care for students that supports the development of academic, personal and professional potential (see https://www.qaa.ac.uk/reviewin...);
- The University of Leicester reviewed the arrangements for research degrees in the summer of 2017 and renewed the arrangements for a minimum of 4 years commencing in 2018.
Based on this evidence, we have assessed that there is a low likelihood that you would be affected by risk involving the University as an institution.
4. Risk Assessment - Campus Availability
4.1 We have assessed the risk of:
- being unable to operate at all on our current campus (Campus Risk 1);
- Being unable to operate on part of our campus (Campus Risk 2).
Campus Risk 1
BGU is located on a single campus on land owned by the University. There is currently no intention to move from this campus. Current expansion plans involve the development of a research centre (Lincolnshire Open Research & Innovation Centre) within five minutes’ walk of our original buildings and the purchase of additional land in the immediate vicinity of the current campus. A permanent move from the core campus is considered a very low risk.
Campus Risk 2
Whilst the University has a developed action plan and procedures for the care and maintenance of its estate, an event that temporarily prevents BGU from using part of that estate cannot be ruled out. The relevant actions to mitigate the impact on students are outlined below. The exact nature of our response to any disaster would be determined by the nature of the disruption and campus facilities affected.
We have a Disaster Plan (incorporating our Business Continuity Plan) to address events outside our control on campus affecting business continuity, such as damage to buildings or equipment. It should be noted that the nature of our academic portfolio with an emphasis on education, social science and humanities means that we do not have very specialist estate resources that might otherwise be needed for STEM subjects. Being able, therefore, to find alternative and comparable learning facilities in the event of any disaster would be feasible.
5. Risk Assessment – Programme Delivery
5.1. The Office for Students has asked all Higher Education Institutions to consider risks that may impact on their ability to continue to operate at subject or programme level, specifically:
- No longer being able to deliver courses in one or more subject areas and/or departments (Programme Risk 1);
- No longer being able to deliver one or more courses to you, particularly if course closures are likely in the next three years (Programme Risk 2);
- No longer being able to deliver material components of one or more courses, particularly if there are areas of vulnerability, such as single person dependencies for teaching (Programme Risk 3).
5.2. Programme Risk 1 & 2
We actively manage our academic portfolio to identify new programmes and the potential withdrawal of existing programmes. Programmes are monitored on an annual basis through Annual Monitoring Reports. These draw on performance, student evaluation reports and external examiner reports and are reviewed at School Boards. The academic School summary reports inform the Annual Health of the Institution Report, which is scrutinised by Council and Senate. Whilst we have a significant number of the programmes with relatively small student numbers, most are delivered as part of a joint degree programme structure. This means that, whilst any specific subject combination may have a small number of students enrolled on the programme, the numbers remain viable. If a programme were to be identified for withdrawal, this would only be done after exploring all opportunities to revive its viability and the development of a withdrawal and teach-out plan for affected students.
We have established and tested procedures in place for the event of suspension/closure of a subject and its associated programmes. These are activated when the risk becomes an actual issue. This has happened, for instance, in the case of PCGE Early Years, to which we are no longer recruiting. Whilst staff are available to teach out the students concerned (as all the relevant staff are engaged on larger programmes), we are monitoring current student performance to ensure we can work with the students on a managed process as required. No further subjects or programmes to be delivered on the BGU campus in 2018-19 are identified as at risk of withdrawal at this point. We are, however, undertaking a portfolio review; therefore, there is a risk of a subject or programme being withdrawn within the next four years.
5.3. Programme Risk 3
We will use all reasonable endeavours to deliver programmes in accordance with the description in our prospectus for the academic year in which you begin your programme. However, whilst we have processes in place for ensuring structured and considered reviews of programmes are undertaken (e.g. the Annual Monitoring Process outlined above), based on experience, there is a risk that students may face material changes in year to programme delivery.
A number of the programmes are reliant on small numbers of permanent academic staff. Whilst risks to the student experience are mitigated through maintaining access to a range of knowledge of skills across the University’s academic staff and through the use of Visiting Tutors and notice periods within staff contractual arrangements, issues such as illness of staff may affect programme delivery.
How we would mitigate the impact on your studies should issues occur at programme level is outlined below.
6. Risk Assessment – Mode of Study
Our IT systems have many safeguards in place to protect against failure. These include multiple data centres, virtual server environments and well-resourced threat protection. There are contingency plans in place should assessment software fail and the virtual learning environment is running in a high availability cluster. Information stored on the virtual learning environment is available in printed form if required. The area of IT is not, therefore, developed further in this plan.
Our primary mode of study is on site campus delivery. This risk is addressed through BGU Campus Risks 1 & 2 above. BGU is currently developing potential options for delivery of digital distance learning options/flying faculties. As these are developed, potential risks to delivery will be incorporated in this Student Protection Plan.
7. Risk Assessment - No longer being able to recruit or teach a particular type of student
Student Type Risk 1
We feel that this risk would currently be applicable to our Tier 4 students. Whilst a recent internal audit has highlighted no major risks in this area, we are aware that the University is in its infancy in respect of Tier 4 students. Plans to mitigate this risk are, therefore, outlined below.
8. Risk Assessment – No longer being able to offer programmes at designated collaborative partners
Partnership Risk 1
As noted above (section 1.5), we work closely with our collaborative partners to ensure these partnerships are robust at institutional and programme levels.
All programmes delivered in partnership with BGU’s franchise partner, Grantham College, were renewed in 2017 for 5 years. The recent review of BGU’s institutional approval of the College and associated programmes means that the risk of the institution being unable to delivery programmes to students is considered currently to be low. However, it is acknowledged that, as with ourselves, unforeseen events may occur that impact on students. How we would work with the College to mitigate these is addressed below.
BGU’s collaborative register (see section 1 above) also details the arrangements with other collaborative partners. The FdA Applied Studies at Boston College is currently in ‘teach out’ and we are working with the college to ensure that this is a managed process. The Diploma in Education and Training (DET) at Lincoln College and New College Stamford is subject to review. Where relevant, we are working with the partners concerned on a managed teach out of the programmes or, in the case of the DET, the validation of an up-to-date alternative. If you are a student at one of our collaborative partners, an outline of the mitigation actions we follow with collaborative partners is give below.
9. Risk Assessment
Based on the information above, we have assessed the likelihood of the risks outlined affecting you. Where we feel that likelihood is at a moderate (or above) level, we have outlined below the actions we would undertake to mitigate any impact on your studies. Please see Appendix A for an outline of the likelihood assigned to each level.
10. Mitigation Actions for Risks classified as ‘Moderate’
10.1 Campus Risk 2: Loss of Part of the Campus
Should part of the campus be unavailable, actions we would look at to mitigate impact on your studies would include:
- relocating provision to an alternative location. This may include, for instance, hiring spaces for programme delivery (where possible nearby) and/or installing temporary buildings on the University’s land;
- revising timetabling to allow all of the scheduled teaching to take part in the available facilities. This may include student contact sessions being held outside of normal office hours.
- if appropriate and viable, programmes could be delivered through alternative means, such as Distance Learning.
In determining the most appropriate action to take, we will ensure that appropriate consultation is undertaken with the students affected and with staff and takes into account the individual needs of the students concerned.
10.2 Programme Risks 1 & 2: Subject or Programme Withdrawal
If a programme were to be identified for withdrawal, this would only be done after:
- exploring all opportunities to revive its viability;
- developing a full withdrawal and teach-out plan, accompanied by a relevant Equality Impact Assessment;
- taking into account the recruitment cycle.
All current applicants would normally be notified no less than three months prior to the planned enrolment. We would advise applicants on how to source alternative opportunities with ourselves or other providers. For current students, we would work with you to ensure that the withdrawal occurs as a phased process over time and that you are given time to complete your studies. (This has happened, for instance, in the recent past when music was withdrawn as a subject offered at BGU and mitigation plans were put in place tailored to the needs of students and taking into account the module delivery pattern applicable to each student.)
In general, measures we would activate to protect you in the event of a programme closure include:
- notifying future applicants in time for them to source an alternative suitable programme (where relevant) at the University or elsewhere;
- communicating with our current students to provide assurance that you will not be adversely affected by our decision, and provide assurance that you will be able to complete your studies;
- working with you to enable completion of studies where mitigating circumstances have been presented;
- closely monitoring the quality of the phased out delivery to ensure that your experience is not diminished.
10.3 Programme Risk 3: No longer being able to deliver material components of a course
Should there, nevertheless, be a material change to a course required in the academic year concerned due to, for instance, staff departures, we will endeavour to minimise disruption through:
- ensuring minor modifications of content or delivery structure are developed in consultation with those affected;
- seeking to fill staffing gaps as quickly as possible, by moving other current members of staff with appropriate skills and experience into the vacant post(s) or by recruiting externally, to avoid disruption;
- reviewing internal staff resources, including recruitment of area specialists;
- ensuring all applicants are informed of planned major changes to programmes as soon as possible.
Where necessary, we will provide reasonable support to you to access a programme run by another provider, including making arrangements for the transfer of credits and information about academic progress.
We have reviewed our current provision as part of the annual monitoring process and are satisfied that the above measures would be adequate in the event of permanent staff leaving undergraduate/postgraduate taught programmes.
Should research supervisory staff with core specialisms leave the University, we would seek to consult you and, where possible mitigate the impact by:
- establishing alternative internal and appropriate first and second supervisor support;
- working with our validation partner to request approval that former staff can be retained as external third supervisors, as appropriate;
- developing specific plans for future study with affected students (e.g. by working with you to refine the research project where appropriate);
- seeking to recruit students to designated areas and specialisms where there is appropriate and established expertise in the academic staff body;
- recruiting new staff with supervisory potential and capacity, and, where appropriate, making reference to established areas and specialisms in doctoral study;
- providing reasonable support to students in accessing a programme run by another provider, including making arrangements for the transfer of credits (taught component of EdD) and information about academic progress (all doctoral programmes).
A particular feature of BGU is that a number of courses are validated to include an element of work based learning. These options include short term placements in an industry linked to your course, assessed work placements embedded throughout a programme and apprenticeship provision.
We will work with you to ensure relevant safeguards are in place to enable you to take advantage of appropriate placements prior to commencing a programme. If a programme is dependent on you being in employment or regularly volunteering in a particular setting, this will be made clear to you prior to commencing on a programme. Where you are studying on a programme with a requirement for work-related learning and you lose your employment, the University will allow an appropriate period of time to work with you to seek an alternative employer.
If an apprentice is made redundant through no fault of their own, we will ensure that the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA guidance) will apply. The ESFA guidance states: “[the ESFA]… will continue to fund … [apprentices]… even if they cannot find another employer. Apprentices who are made redundant within six months of planned end date will be funded completely. Apprentices who are made redundant more than six months from the planned end date will be funded for 12 weeks”.
10.4 Student Type Risk 1
In the event of suspension of our Tier 4 Sponsor status, we would work with UK Visa and Immigration section (UKVI) to take all reasonable steps to minimise the resultant disruption to those services and to affected students. Dependent on the work with UKVI, we would consider:
- allowing you to complete your year of study/programme;
- allowing those already in receipt of a VISA based upon an allocated CAS from the University to enrol and commence their studies;
- offering those who have not commenced their travel to the University, the opportunity to postpone their application pending the resolution of the suspension.
In the event of revocation of Tier 4 Sponsor Licence, we will work with UKVI to take all reasonable steps to minimise the resultant disruption to affected students by, for example:
- providing assistance to you to switch to an alternative sponsor.
10.5 Partnership Risk 1
Grantham College is a franchise arrangement. Should an incident occur which affects Grantham College’s ability to deliver teaching, the College’s Student Protection Plan would initially come into operation (e.g. loss of key staff or part of the College’s teaching and learning spaces or IT systems). BGU will, however, work with the College to minimise any disruption to your studies. Should it be decided that the programme on which you are studying will not continue, we will work with the college and those affected to manage the withdrawal of the programme and minimise the impact on the students affected. Should it not be possible to continue to provide courses at Grantham, we will work with the College to ensure you can complete their studies through potentially:
- amending (with consultation) the mode of delivery to distance learning/mixed method;
- enabling you (with support) to access equivalent courses at the BGU campus;
- establishing a flying faculty (including support mechanisms) to teach you in the locality;
- utilising Visiting Tutors to teach specialist elements of the programme.
Whilst students within other arrangements are studying BGU validated programmes at their college, these are not franchise arrangements. However, in the event of there being a material disruption to study, BGU would work with the colleges to assist in minimising the impact on affected students. In the case of the SCITT (School-centred initial teacher training), BGU would work with the Department for Education and Teaching and the North Lincolnshire Council to ensure you are able to complete their studies, potentially through working with local school direct options or by offering opportunities on BGU teacher development courses.
11. Financial Implications
Should it be necessary to activate provisions under this Protection Plan, we will seek to ensure that solutions are tailored to take into account the needs of different students. Solutions will be subject to consultation and Equality Impact Assessment. Guided by the principles of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, we will seek: “to ensure that the proposed … [protection]… returns the student to the position that they would have been in had the circumstances not occurred. Any compensation payments deemed appropriate would take into account: “actual financial loss””.
For further details, please see our Refund and Compensation Policy available at: https://www.bgu.ac.uk/about-bgu/policies-and-procedures
Where relevant, mitigation plans, as outlined, are in place to enable you to complete your studies at BGU or one of our partners. The exception to this might be the extremely small number of Tier 4 students currently engaged. BGU’s financial situation would be sufficient to provide refunds and compensation for the small number of students on current teach out courses potentially at an increased risk of non-continuation of study.
12. Publication & Review
This plan will be reviewed on an annual basis and approved through the University’s summer Senate meeting. Representatives of the Students’ Union (SU) have been involved in devising this plan. The SU also sits on committees at which the plan is reviewed and discussed. Should the plan have to be activated in any manner, we will seek to capture the views of those affected on how it might be improved for the future.
Copies of this plan are available for current and potential students on the BGU website. It is referred to in the University’s terms and conditions of enrolment. Current students are informed of the plan at re-enrolment and through communications on the student portal or the relevant intranet at our collaborative partners.
The plan is published on the staff portal and referenced in the regular Regulations Roadshows.
Staff or students wishing to comment on this plan are welcome to contact our governance team of the University at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
13. Notification, advice and support
We are committed to communicating any changes to programmes as early as possible (normally no less than 30 days before implementation).
Should we need to trigger this plan, the SU will be notified and invited to discuss the next steps with a University working group. If affected, you will be notified by the Registrar and directed to a central point for further information. Under normal circumstances, we commit to contacting you three months prior to the intended dates of major programme change/closure. Should unforeseen circumstances result in a change in semester, we commit to consulting you as soon as potential options are identified and working with you to mitigate any impact.
Advice and support will be offered, in the first instance, by the relevant Programme Leader supported by Registry and Student Advice.
Additionally, independent advice and support will be available via the Students’ Union.
Where you decide it is necessary to transfer programme, or move to another institution, there are likely to be implications for student finance arrangements. The University’s Student Advice team will be notified of students affected in the event of any the above steps being taken. Student Advice will contact affected students and provide detailed information, advice and guidance based on their individual circumstances.
N.B. We retain the right to make minor adjustments and improvements to programme and module content year on year, and these in themselves do not warrant the triggering of student protection measures. However if you feel that the programme as delivered varies significantly from what you expected, clarification and representation can be sought through the Students’ Union.
14. What can I do if I have a complaint?
If you wish to complain about our management of the process of change, you can follow the University’s complaints procedure. Details of how to raise a complaint can be found at: https://www.bgu.ac.uk/about-bgu/policies-and-procedures
If students are not content with the proposed outcomes, they can raise the issue with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, at https://www.oiahe.org.uk/