The OIA is part of the regulatory framework for higher education in the UK. We are independent of Governments and regulators such as the Office for Students (OfS) and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).
To carry out our work effectively, we need to cooperate and communicate with other organisations. We work with them to identify areas where our independent functions are related, and to agree areas where it would be beneficial to share information and contribute to each other’s work. This means we exchange information with other bodies about higher education providers and about complaints. The information we share doesn't identify the student unless we have the student’s consent to identify them.
We receive information about providers that are registered with OfS or that receive specific course designation from HEFCW so that we know which providers are members of our Scheme.
We share information with other bodies such as the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) about complaints that we believe may identify a systemic issue at a provider. Those bodies give us information about issues that might lead to a cluster of complaints.
We share information with organisations where we decide they have a relevant right or interest in that information. For example, we work with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which looks at the actions of a provider as a whole in the context of consumer protection laws. We also work with the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) when we look at complaints from students studying for Ofqual-regulated qualifications at providers that are members of our Scheme.
As the designated operator of the student complaints scheme under the Higher Education Act 2004, we have a duty to supply relevant information to the appropriate UK and Welsh Assembly Government Ministers. We engage regularly with civil servants in the Department for Education (England) and the Department for Education and Skills (Wales) in relation to legislative and regulatory changes that affect our work, and where our expertise and experience in complaints is relevant to policy discussions.
We participate in various sector groups and committees. We are a member of UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment, and of the Consumer Benefit Forum. We have been a member of the Student Engagement Partnership (TSEP) Steering Group. We attend the QAA Board as an observer.
We have formal information sharing agreements with: