The Office for Students (OfS), UK, has announced certain compulsory thresholds for the universities and colleges of England based on drop-out rates, course completion and graduate employment. Universities would now have to pass this investigation or they could be punished with restrictions and fines.
England’s Universities and Colleges are supported by the student loan funding program of the government and the OfS is authorised with the quality of higher education. Recently, it has been noticed that universities have been offering some courses which are of ‘low quality' and degrade the overall quality of education. These courses also utilise university funds hence keeping financial support away from deserving ‘high-quality courses’.
The OfS is using the student census to set up the sanctions. As per its findings, 90% of students deem teaching quality to be important while 65% believe that quality can be determined by the ability to secure a job after graduation. Therefore, to help determine the better quality courses, Office for Students took the initiative to outline the minimum acceptable outcomes for students across different parameters such as graduate employment, drop-out rates and course-completion, that all universities will have to clear.
The sanctions require UK universities to show that 80% of students continuing in the second year and three-quarters of original admission complete their qualification. Furthermore, 60% should secure employment or opt for further studies after graduation.
According to Alistair Jarvis (Universities UK, Chief Executive) universities must also work on the social quotient of the courses along with business creations and skill enhancement. He deems it important that courses contribute to public services, cultural activity and environment. The body had also released guidelines for institutions to track the quality of their courses. These guidelines included the factors of student wellbeing before and after graduation and their impact on business productivity.
The institutions are ready to cooperate with OfS, however, are of the opinion that the regulators can’t properly determine the ‘quality’ of any course. Jo Grady (University and College Union, General Secretary) was of the opinion that fear of these sanctions will lead the institutions to reject students who show potential but not promise of growth. He stated that these sanctions could end up harming the students rather than helping.
Nicola Dandridge (OfS, Chief Executive) stated that sanctions will prove historic in controlling the falling education quality. She further stated that the body is determined to crack down on the courses which do not provide any tangible returns to the students.
Referring to the statistics, she stated that 3% of students start courses that do not meet the sanctions thresholds and 2% of students (3,000 at 55 providers) have graduated from courses that do not fulfil the sanction’s employment targets.
Michelle Donelan, Universities Minister in the UK reprimanded UK universities for not being able to bring back in-person learning, emphasising that “we [the country] need to learn to live with this virus… [and] …get back to pre-pandemic life.
She further highlighted and criticised the high salaries of a few vice-chancellors in the UK, which she tagged as “eye-watering and staggering”, while also pointing out the high drop-out rates, which was revealed to be as high as 40%. The Parliament Member concluding her statements, reminisced one of her reasons for joining politics was to help young people not be “hoodwinked”, to courses, that would deliver on their promises.
Source: Financial Times; The Guardian
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