Publication Date: July 29, 2013
Subject: Direct Loan Eligibility of "Listed Bodies" in the U.K.
Summary: This letter advises institutions in the United Kingdom (U.K.) of a clarification of the eligibility requirements for participation in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program by “Listed Bodies.” The U.S. Department of Education (the Department) has concluded that status as a U.K. “Listed Body” providing an educational program leading to a degree validated by a U.K. “Recognized Body” meets the regulatory requirement that the credential awarded be “officially recognized” by the country in which the institution is located.
On November 1, 2010, the Department published in the Federal Register final regulations making changes to the requirements for eligibility of foreign institutions to participate in the Direct Loan Program (75 FR 67170). These regulations became effective July 1, 2011 (except for certain regulations specific to foreign graduate medical schools, which became effective July 20, 2011). One of the changes made to the definition of “foreign institution” at 34 C.F.R. 600.52 provides that the educational credentials awarded by the foreign institution must be “officially recognized” by the country in which the institution is located.
In a November 23, 2011, Dear Colleague Letter (GEN-11-20) focused on the new requirements, we stated, among other things, that a foreign institution that is not permitted by the education ministry, council, or equivalent agency of the country in which it is located to issue an educational credential cannot be said to qualify as an institution that awards officially recognized credentials.
The November 23, 2011, letter focused on a regulatory requirement that is new and significant: that each participating foreign institution must provide a program leading to an officially recognized credential. As the Department noted in the rulemaking preamble, the new regulations were promulgated, in part, to establish heightened requirements for government oversight of foreign institutions that seek to participate or continue participating in the Direct Loan Program.
In light of information received from institutions located in the U.K., the Department wishes to clarify that the requirement of “official recognition” does not require a specific structure of governmental oversight for the awarding of officially recognized credentials for U.K. institutions seeking eligibility for Direct Loan Program participation. While the statutory requirement outlines that a foreign institution seeking to participate must be “comparable” to a domestic “institution of higher education” as defined in the Higher Education Act of 1965, it need not be identical.
In particular, while the legal framework in the United States vests degree-awarding authority in the institution that provides the degree program, in the U.K. authority to award the officially recognized educational credential may be vested in an institution separate from the institution providing the program, with the U.K. government providing extensive oversight of both functions, and with the credential-awarding institution providing additional oversight of its own. (See, e.g., The Education (Listed Bodies) Order 2010 available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2010/2614/contents/made; and the Education Reform Act 1988 available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/40/section/214.)
Although the U.K. structure is not identical to the U.S. system, the Department has reviewed the U.K. structure, including its oversight components, and is satisfied that the U.K. structure, with regard to “Listed Bodies,” clearly offers a level of oversight comparable to that found in the United States. The Department has concluded, therefore, that status as a U.K. “Listed Body” providing an educational program leading to a degree validated by a U.K. “Recognized Body” meets the Department’s regulatory requirement that the credential awarded be “officially recognized” by the country in which the institution is located, and clarifies Dear Colleague Letter GEN-11-20 in that respect.
As stated in Dear Colleague Letter GEN-11-20, the Department remains committed to a heightened level of oversight of the foreign institutions that participate in the Direct Loan Program to ensure academic quality. As governments’ oversight laws and mechanisms are subject to change and circumstances may vary among institutions, the Department will continue to review comparability of oversight of institutions on a case-by-case basis for institutions in the U.K. as well as for all other foreign institutions.
We appreciate the information received specific to this issue from “Listed Body” institutions. The Department remains steadfast in its support for U.S. students wishing to enroll in strong academic programs throughout the world.
If you have questions regarding the information provided in this letter, you may contact Federal Student Aid’s Foreign Schools Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 377-3168.
Delegated the Authority to Perform the Functions and Duties of the
Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education