How to Avoid an ‘Ambulance’ Approach to your Compliance

Posted: 31/03/2022

Across both private and public Higher Education, many providers have a highly reactive ‘ambulance’ approach to compliance, responding to conditions, voluntary undertakings, ‘last-minute’ deadlines, projects that have gone off track, or failed audits.

But compliance doesn’t need to be stressful or dramatic.

Most, if not all, compliance activities within the Higher Education Standards Framework (HESF) are manageable via proactive, regular planning and small bites of work throughout the relevant registration period. What we often see is:

  • Requests for help on re-registration efforts less than 12 months from submission
  • Last-minute quality checks on new courses, new registrations, or other initial exercises
  • Late quality checks or advice on conditions that the regulator has applied
  • Urgent requests for responses to threats to deregister
  • Urgent requests for responses to denied course applications
  • And, more.

While you are in the midst of the panic that often comes with these scenarios, it can be hard to think about what could have been done differently to avoid this. We highly recommend that after these rectification activities, a reflection activity occurs and is shared with the provider’s leadership team to ensure that the seriousness and consequences of the activity are well understood.

Too often, the compliance team takes the heat; and whilst leadership may be appreciative that the problem got solved, they’ve often missed the detail and all the advice, warnings, and rectification needed to address issues going forward. This means that there can also be an exercise of bringing leadership along and ensuring they understand compliance activities.

So, what can you do?

  • Ensure you have regular external reviews scheduled and tracked.
    • Recommendations should also be tracked and managed, with accountability
    • Findings, progress and risks are clearly reported to boards and leadership regularly, with potential consequences noted
  • Ensure your compliance framework is in place, fit for purpose, tracked, and understood by those involved
    • Ensure training is undertaken for those with touchpoints
    • Ensure regular evaluation is taking place
    • Ensure risks, weak points and potential breaches are reported regularly, with potential consequences noted
  • Ensure quality is front of mind in all conversations
    • Review who is on relevant working groups or project teams and ensure a quality lens is present
    • Ensure academic and corporate boards are trained and understand their role in managing quality
  • Engage expert advice early and proactively
    • Just because you don’t have your Confirmed Evidence Table does not mean you can’t get input as to your risks
    • Expert advice on your plan and approach is just as important as a pre-submission check
    • Early advice has saved many applications!
  • Don’t just stick to the ‘minimum’ requirements
    • The HESF is about driving the quality of our education system – not just ticking a box
    • Think about where you can weave in reviews, internal audits, peer reviews, and benchmarking to make YOUR institution of the highest quality possible

As always, we are here to discuss your Governance and Compliance needs and help you reach your quality goals. If you would like a chat with our team to brainstorm your scenario and how you can be proactive, contact the DVE Team for a free 30-minute chat.