From education to employment

Regulator launches eight investigations into poor quality courses

Susan Lapworth, interim chief executive of the OfS

The Office for Students (OfS), the independent regulator of higher education in England, has today launched eight new investigations designed to tackle poor quality courses.  

This set of investigations will look specifically at business and management courses, including an examination of whether poor quality online learning has replaced face to face teaching to the detriment of students’ academic experience.  

The investigations will consider whether courses at the eight universities and colleges meet the OfS’s conditions for quality, which came into effect in May this year.  

Other factors to be considered include whether the delivery of courses and assessment is effective, the contact hours students receive, and whether the learning resources and academic support available to students are sufficient. To support this work the OfS is recruiting a pool of experienced academics to lead the investigative work.  

The OfS is not naming the universities and colleges under investigation at this stage, but expects to publish further details of the investigations soon.  

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

“We know that students have endured an exceptionally difficult time during the pandemic. While most courses have returned to normal, it is right for the OfS to consider whether some universities and colleges are selling students short. It is also right that we look at the quality of business and management courses more generally because around 400,000 students at OfS-registered providers study this subject every year and they are entitled to expect a high quality experience regardless of the provider they choose. 

“The launch of these investigations signals a shift for the OfS to active regulation of quality in the higher education sector. As well as the direct impact on the courses under investigation, this work sends a clear message to all universities and colleges we regulate that they should ensure that all their courses are well taught, well resourced, and provide students with a credible qualification that stands the test of time. Where that is the case, they should not be concerned about our regulation. Where it is not, we are ready to require improvement and to consider imposing sanctions.”

Sector Response

Minister for Higher and Further Education Michelle Donelan said:

“I am determined to drive up quality in higher education – from tackling drop out rates and improving graduate outcomes to ensuring students have face to face learning. This is the first wave of a package of boots-on-the-ground investigations that the Secretary of State and I have asked the OfS to deliver, focusing on ensuring students receive sufficient face-to-face contact hours, are on high quality, stretching courses and are assessed rigorously and fairly.

“This is just one part of my drive to tackle the pockets of poor quality that let down students, increase transparency and deliver real social mobility.”

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