The Office for Students has published a consultation outlining its minimum acceptable outcomes for students, setting thresholds for drop-out rates, course completion, and graduate employment that universities will have to pass.
The new regulations would mean that universities are likely to be sanctioned if fewer than 80% of students studying full-time for their first degree continue past the first year or if fewer than 75% complete their degree over the previous four years.
They could also be investigated and penalised by the OfS if fewer than 60% of their graduates go on to work in what it deems ‘skilled employment’. Sanctions that universities may face include fines and restrictions on student loan eligibility.
The OfS said that around 60,000 students on full-time undergraduate courses are enrolled in courses at institutions in England that could fail to meet its minimum standards.
Chief executive of the OfS Nicola Dandridge said that the thresholds they have proposed are intended to target universities with ‘poor quality courses and outcomes which are letting students down and don’t reflect students’ ambition and effort.’
She explained that the thresholds will not affect the many universities and colleges in England which run high quality courses.
Meanwhile, Michelle Donelan, the universities minister for England, said that there are ‘too many pockets of poor quality’ within our university system. She stated: ‘Through this tough regulatory action, we are protecting students from being let down by these institutions, while also ensuring those delivering outstanding teaching are properly recognised.’
The OfS explained that students studying on courses below the thresholds are often from groups ‘underrepresented in higher education’ and their proposals are designed to ensure that providers must support the students they recruit ‘to achieve positive outcomes, regardless of their background.’
What is the OfS?
The Office for Students is the independent regulator for higher education in England, with their aim being to ensure that every student ‘has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.’
The OfS will be publishing three consultations, running from January 20th to March 17th 2022, which set out proposals for regulating student outcomes, the future of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), and the way the OfS proposes to construct, present, and interpret the data.