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Qualifying institutions

Section 11 of the Higher Education Act 2004 defines those providers, known as "qualifying institutions" which are required to be members of our Scheme. At the outset, only universities and some other "higher education institutions" were required to be members.

The legislation has subsequently been amended to extend membership of our Scheme to a wider range of providers including those:

  • providing courses designated for student support funding;
  • providers on the Office for Students Register; and
  • providers who provide higher education courses leading to the grant of an award by another OIA member.

This means that many further education colleges, alternative providers and providers of school-centred initial teacher training that have been designated to receive student support funding, as well as providers in a sub-contractual relationship with a university, are also now members of the Scheme in respect of their higher education provision.

We are notified by the Office for Students or the relevant Government department when a provider becomes a "qualifying institution". We then contact the provider to explain the requirements of the Scheme. Any provider which we have not contacted but who considers itself to be a "qualifying institution" should contact us.

As well as having a statutory obligation to our Rules and to pay their subscriptions, providers who are registered with the Office for Students also have to comply with condition C2 of the regulatory framework which states that:

Providers must:

(i) Co-operate with the requirements of the [OIA Scheme], including the subscription requirements; and

(ii) Make students aware of their ability to use the [OIA Scheme].”

Transitional institutions

If a provider stops being a qualifying institution, for example because it stops running higher education courses, it will carry on being a member of the OIA for a period of 12 months after it stopped being a qualifying institution. Transitional institutions are identified in our list of members on our website and more information about these providers can be found in our Guidance on our Rules.

Joining the Scheme

Providers or awarding organisations that do not fall within the definition of "qualifying institution" in the Higher Education Act 2004 may apply to join the Scheme. Providers or awarding organisations that become members of the Scheme through this route are required to comply with the Rules of the Scheme in the same way as "qualifying institutions". Please contact us for further information about joining the Scheme in this way.

Contact us regarding membership

If you have any questions about membership or need more information, please get in touch with us at

Our Scheme

Learn more about how we are funded, the Rules of our Scheme, how we engage and who our members are

Our Rules

Our Rules set out how our Scheme works, who can complain, what we can and can’t look at, how we review complaints, and what higher education providers should do

Who can complain to us?

Learn more about who can complain to us and what they can complain about.