English universities may be fined if their courses don’t provide students with graduate-level jobs within fifteen months of graduating.
The Office of Students will be investigating universities that are failing to meet thresholds imposed due to new testing. The three new thresholds were published by the OfS and will measure graduate employment and dropout rates at university. If these rates do not meet the imposed threshold, universities face fines, deregistration or other sanctions.
In new tests published by the OfS, universities where fewer than 60% of students fail to find work in their subject area, set up their own businesses, or go on to further education, will face hefty fines. Exceptions will be made for those students with caring responsibilities or who chose to go travelling.
The OfS propose that the test will be measured 15 months after students graduate. The threshold, which comes into force next week, will not affect the majority of students. Instead, it is there to improve universities. In their statement, the OfS chief regulator said that the thresholds will act as an incentive.
‘Today’s decision provides a clear incentive for universities and colleges to take credible action to improve the outcomes of courses which may be cause for concern,’ the statement reads.
Another threshold that universities must meet is their dropout rates. Sanctions will also be applied to universities where one-in-five full-time students drop out before completion. Furthermore, it will also apply to universities where one-in-four do not pass their degree.
‘Too many students, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, are recruited on to courses with weak outcomes which do not improve their life chances. We can now intervene where outcomes for students are low, and where universities and colleges cannot credibly explain why,’ the chief regulator said.
Some are concerned
The chief regulator reassured that ‘Most higher education students in England are on courses with outcomes above our thresholds, often significantly so. These courses put students in a good position to continue their successes after graduation.’
However, some university leaders disagree with the implementation of the thresholds. They suggest that factors such as the economy, personal reasons and different career paths affect university employment rates.
A spokesperson for Universities UK spoke to The Guardian and said, ‘The data is not perfect and can only ever capture aspects of student success. This should include the wide range of benefits that students take from their university education, including meaningful and satisfying careers which have value far beyond income.’
Figures are already showing that some universities are falling beneath the new thresholds. With implementation next week, these universities need to improve in the next year or risk facing sanctions.