At Third Sector Law we are happy to advise schools, colleges and Higher education institutions.

Higher Education


All higher education institutions are legally independent institutions accountable through a governing body that carries responsibility for all aspects of that institution’s affairs. The particular legal status of a University is generally defined in each individual instrument of governance. All higher education institutions have charitable status and most are exempt charities under the Charities Act 2011. There may be governance differences between pre 1992 universities and post 1992 universities.

Pre 1992 Universities

Most of these were established by Royal Charter through the Privy Council and are chartered corporations. Others might be established or reconstituted by a private or public Act of Parliament and are statutory corporations. The governance of these institutions is laid down in the Act, Charter and Statutes. Rules ordinances and regulations are all made under powers derived from the original foundation.

Post 1992 Universities and Colleges of Further Education

Universities and Colleges of Higher Education can be either higher education corporations or designated institutions under the Education Reform Act 1988. They have powers to create by-laws. Higher education corporations should have model articles of governance but designated institutions may utilise a range of different legal forms.

Universities and similar institutions are currently facing huge changes. For the last twenty years this sector has enjoyed an exceptional level of stability, academic autonomy and freedom. Following the Higher Education White paper (Summer 2011) the sector is expecting major reforms and changes to the regulatory framework in which Higher Education institutions operate. The government has since set out details of its funding commitment and the priorities it has set for the coming year. This includes ring fenced funds for research projects.

At Third Sector Law we are well placed to support Universities and Higher Education providers in producing innovation and managing change. We can provide advice and assistance to help meet the challenge of becoming engines for economic growth.

We can advise on

  • Charity law: including restricted funds, scholarships, Council duties, Visitors
  • Working with and around existing constitutional provisions to modernise and increase the operational flexibility of institutions.
  • Modifying governance
  • Funding agreements for multi institutional collaboration in innovation
  • Capital investment, innovation knowledge exchange and local and public engagement
  • Funding agreements, public and private sector, and agreements with businesses
  • Land transactions and capital projects
  • Restoration and preservation of historic assets including buildings, works of art
  • Oxford and Cambridge colleges
  • Legacies and gifts
  • Public benefit guidance
  • Intellectual Property and employment