Project 3.1

Alternative, emerging and cross-border higher education provision and its relationship with mainstream provision

Project timetable

The project will run from January 2016 until September 2019.

Phase one


  • Literature reviews on theories, concepts and models of system configuration and organisational field in higher education.
  • Literature reviews on historical and empirical studies of private, offshore, online and college higher education in the UK and other jurisdictions.
  • Specification of course and student data for a base year from HESA, HEFCE, ILR and the responsible data agencies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Collection of survey instruments used in previous studies of private higher education in UK together with provider listings from research and relevant organisations.
  • Design of a survey instrument and a methodology for generating, processing and analysing data collected from privately funded providers of higher education in the UK, in discussion with sector and user groups.


  • Administration and analysis of a survey of privately funded providers in the UK, including follow-up methods to increase response rates.
  • Combination, integration and analysis of administrative data for a base year, including its analysis and presentation for the UK as a whole and by country.
  • Selection of software and other tools to secure the effective communication of findings to academic, policy and practitioner audiences.
  • Selection and supervision of a Sheffield-funded PhD student to undertake a study on aspects of the student population in UK private higher education.

Phase two


  • Analysis of the administrative data to identify the local-national-global profiles of individual UK-based higher education institutions based on their course and student characteristics, including provision that is offshore and online and that which is undertaken by other providers in other sectors.
  • Review of phase one findings at two invitation seminars, one with UK policy bodies and one with alternative providers.
  • Selection of case study organisations and the drawing-up of agreements with institutions on access to documentary sources, the conduct of interviews with managers and the use of research data.
  • Fieldwork in case study organisations.


  • Synthesis of phase one and phase two findings.
  • Dissemination and discussion of research findings with associated organisations, user groups and academic researchers, through CGHE activities and events.
  • Preparation of academic and other outputs which report on the findings and analyses, including journal articles and a book-length publication.