Specific course designation: alternative higher education providers

Guidance for alternative higher education providers on how to apply for specific course designation and annual re-designation.



Specific course designation is the process for alternative providers to access the following for eligible students:

  • undergraduate student support
  • postgraduate master’s loans
  • disabled students’ allowances (DSA)

DfE grants specific course designation on an annual basis.

This guidance explains:

  • who is eligible to apply for designation
  • the criteria DfE uses to grant designation
  • how to apply for designation
  • the assessment process
  • the conditions designated providers must meet
  • the process for seeking annual re-designation
  • how DfE applies student number controls
  • the sanctions DfE may take if a provider no longer meets the criteria and conditions of designation

An alternative higher education provider is a provider of higher education courses that doesn’t receive recurrent funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) or any other public body, and isn’t a further education college.

Published 20 July 2017