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Specific-course designation for alternative providers of higher education

These pages provide information on the application process for specific-course designation, which the Government has asked HEFCE to run on its behalf.


What is an alternative provider?

‘... any provider of higher education courses which is not in direct receipt of recurrent funding from HEFCE or from equivalent bodies in the Devolved Administrations; or does not receive direct recurrent public funding (for example, from a local authority, or from the Secretary of State for Education); and is not a further education college.’

The Government aims to make higher education in England more diverse and responsive to the needs of students. It described this approach in the 2011 White Paper Students at the heart of the system and the technical consultation that followed.

To support this, the Government is introducing a new system to designate courses at alternative providers. Specific-course designation of a course allows eligible English-domiciled students on that course to access loans and grants from the Student Loans Company (SLC).

HEFCE’s role

The Government has asked us to process applications for specific-course designation, working with the SLC and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). In this role, we will provide the Government with advice for them to:

  • decide whether or not to accept an application for specific-course designation
  • control the number of full-time undergraduate students on designated courses at alternative providers 
  • decide whether or not a provider continues to meet the criteria for specific-course designation.

For students

Find out how this process affects the access students at alternative providers have to student loans and grants.

Read more

How to apply

We are currently accepting applications to review existing courses. Applications for designation for courses starting in 2014-15 can be submitted from 3 February 2014 until 14 March 2014.




Page last updated 16 October 2013

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