Educational Oversight bodies

Educational Oversight bodies

Further education colleges and English language schools are required by the Home Office to have an inspection by a designated Educational Oversight (EO) body if they wish to apply for, or renew, their Tier 4 sponsor licence.

There are three EO bodies in England and Wales: PFE (part of ISI), the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and the School Inspection Service (SIS).

How do I know if PFE is the correct Educational Oversight body to inspect my institution?

PFE is the Educational Oversight inspection body for colleges or English language schools which:

  • are based in England or Wales
  • provide courses that are predominantly further education, English as a foreign language, or a mix of the two
  • are not identified as a college with a clear religious purpose, or a provider of Montessori or Steiner further education

What are the roles of the other Educational Oversight bodies?

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) is responsible for Educational Oversight of private institutions offering predominantly higher education (e.g. degree courses).

The School Inspection Service (SIS) offers inspection for Tier 4 purposes to further education sponsors within the following specified categories further education Montessori and Steiner providers.

How do I decide whether ISI or QAA should inspect my institution?

ISI and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) work together to ensure coordination of Educational Oversight arrangements. In most cases, QAA will review institutions offering higher education courses awarded in accordance with the Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ), while PFE will inspect privately funded further education colleges and English language schools offering courses on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF/NQF). 

However, for institutions offering a mixture of provision, the following guidance may be helpful:

  • Colleges offering qualifications at level 6 and above of the QCF/NQF framework should apply to QAA for Educational Oversight
  • Colleges offering qualifications at levels 4 and 5 of the QCF/NQF framework can choose to apply to either ISI or QAA depending on how they wish to represent their institution (as either a higher or a further education provider)

The information provided in an application will confirm whether an organisation predominantly offers higher education and would therefore be reviewed by QAA, or if it predominantly offers further education or English language programmes and therefore would be inspected by ISI.

Where there is uncertainty about the mix of programmes applicable QAA and ISI will liaise to ensure inspection by the appropriate EO body.

See Applying for Educational Oversight for more information.

For any other questions, please see our FAQs.