Unwarranted: The OfS Review of Assessment Practices and the Erosion of Institutional Autonomy

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In England, the relationship between the higher education regulator (OfS) and those it purports to regulate is highly strained. A 2023 parliamentary inquiry into the OfS published an excoriating report which found, among other issues, problems with the execution of its statutory duty to protect institutional autonomy. An OfS policy which evidences this is the requirement for universities to assess spelling, punctuation and grammar. In imposing this mandate, the OfS appears to be ultra vires as it has a statutory duty to protect institutional autonomy, specifically defined to include the freedom to determine assessment practices. This paper uses an adapted form of Hyatt’s Critical Higher Education Policy Analysis Framework to examine the policy steers and socio-political contexts from which the assessment mandate emerged. The warrants for the policy are analysed with reference to three epistemic beliefs relating to declining literacy, higher education quality and employment. This paper also analyses the OfS’s interpretations of its statutory duties in issuing this policy. Despite the highly critical findings of the inquiry, no substantive change in regulatory approach looks likely.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
JournalHigher Education Policy
Early online date18 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2024


  • Higher education regulation
  • Institutional autonomy
  • Ofce for Students
  • Critical higher education policy analysis framework
  • Spelling
  • Punctuation and grammar


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