From education to employment

OfS sets new expectations for student outcomes

New thresholds will come into place next week which set minimum expectations for the proportion of students on higher education courses who continue on their course, graduate, and go on to further study or find a professional job, the Office for Students (OfS) has announced today.  

Universities and colleges that perform below these thresholds could face investigation to allow the OfS to understand the reasons for their performance. If, following investigation, performance is not adequately explained by a provider’s context, the OfS has the power to intervene and impose sanctions for a breach of its conditions of registration.  

The thresholds have been set following an extensive consultation process, with views from students and their representatives and universities and colleges considered. Different thresholds have been set for courses depending on their mode and level of study, which take into account the differences in outcomes for students who study full- and part-time, and those on undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The OfS will also consider performance in individual subjects, to ensure pockets of poor performance can be identified and addressed. 

For full-time students studying for a first degree, the thresholds are for: 

  • 80 per cent of students to continue their studies.
  • 75 per cent of students to complete their course.
  • 60 per cent of students to go on to further study, professional work, or other positive outcomes, within 15 months of graduating.

Commenting Susan Lapworth, chief executive of the OfS, said:  

“Many universities and colleges deliver successful outcomes for their students and our new thresholds should not trouble them. But too many students, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, are recruited onto 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. 

“We recognise that students choose higher education for a variety of reasons. Many are focused on improving their career prospects and it is right that we’re prepared to tackle courses with low numbers of students going into professional work. Our new approach also takes into account other positive outcomes, for example, further study, or graduates building their own business or a portfolio career. 

“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. But 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.” 

Sector Response

Skills Minister Andrea Jenkyns said:

“University study is an investment for both students and the taxpayer and we have been clear to vice chancellors that students should be graduating with high quality degrees that lead to good future prospects.

“We support the work of the Office for Students to ensure world-class quality and standards are maintained across our higher education sector and today’s thresholds clearly set out what students have a right to expect.

“We want the OfS to drive improvement through action where a higher education provider is not meeting these benchmarks so we’ve given them further powers to intervene if there are areas of concern and they have already launched several investigations into quality”.

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