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Higher education corporations

Establishment of corporations

Section 90(1) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (FHEA 1992) defines 'higher education corporation' as:

“…a body corporate established under section 121 or 122 of the Education Reform Act 1988….or a body corporate which has become a higher education corporation by virtue of section 122A of that Act”.

Section 121 of the Education Reform Act 1988 (ERA 1988) provided for the Secretary of State to specify on a particular date a list of educational institutions maintained by local education authorities to be incorporated as higher education corporations. This power is now only of historical note and most of section 121 has been repealed.

Section 122 of ERA 1988 allows the Welsh Ministers to establish a higher education corporation for the purposes of running an educational institution maintained by a local authority if more than 55 per cent of the institution’s full-time students are enrolled on higher education courses. This power is also now largely defunct as there are no more institutions maintained by local authorities.

The Welsh Ministers can also transfer a further education institution to the higher education sector under section 122A of ERA 1988 if more than 55 per cent of the institution’s full-time students are enrolled on higher education courses.

It is worth noting, therefore, that under the existing legislation the Welsh Ministers may only create higher education corporations in relation to existing educational institutions, and do not have power to create a higher education corporation to conduct an entirely new educational institution.

Section 1

Powers of corporations

The powers of higher education corporations are set out in section 125 of ERA 1988. Their principal powers are to:

  • provide higher or further education;
  • provide or participate in secondary education (after consultation with appropriate local authorities); and
  • carry out and publish research. 

A higher education corporation may also do anything that appears to it to be necessary or expedient in connection with its principal powers e.g. employing staff, making contracts, acquiring and disposing of land (section 124(2) of ERA 1988).

In exercising their powers to provide secondary or further education to individuals under the age of 19, higher education institutions must comply with the requirements relating to local curriculums set out in sections 33A to 33L, 33N and 33O of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 (section 33Q of LSA 2000 and the Local Curriculum in Higher Education Institutions (Wales) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/270 refer).

Section 2

Governance

Higher education corporations are governed by their instruments and articles of government. The initial instrument of government of a higher education corporation is made by the Privy Council by order. The articles of government are made by the corporation and approved by the Privy Council. The requirements for the articles of government are set out in section 125 of ERA 1988. In particular, articles of government may make provision with respect to the procedures for the appointment, promotion and dismissal of staff and the admission, suspension and expulsion of students.

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