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Office for Students responds to Public Accounts Committee report on higher education

This report’s sharp focus on student opportunity, choice, quality and value for money goes to the heart of the Office for Students’ mission. 

‘Our job is to protect and promote students’ interests and, since we began operations in April 2018, we have set out how we are doing this through our regulatory framework, strategy and business plan. We have made a clear commitment to ensure that students can transfer course more easily in the future.

‘We agree with the Committee that further, faster progress is needed to widen participation in higher education. Progress to date on access and outcomes for underrepresented groups has been incremental and that is not good enough. Students deserve transformational change so we are intervening directly to drive this, particularly in the universities that need to make the most progress.

‘The Committee is right to highlight the difficulties that prospective students can face in deciding what and where to study. Improving the quality of information, advice and guidance for students is a priority for us. Our process for ensuring that all registered higher education providers meet challenging standards of quality and student protection will ensure a common threshold.

‘We share the Committee’s assessment of the complexity and diversity of the student body. With our student panel and in other ways, we are engaging with students to understand and respond to the things they say matter to them. For example, our recent research on students’ perspectives about value for money was commissioned by students’ unions on our behalf. 

‘I simply do not recognise the Committee’s statement that we are not working with the NUS. The Office for Students’ student panel includes the current NUS president, is chaired by a former NUS president and includes a number of other officials who are or who have been elected student union officers. Both Sir Michael Barber, the Office for Students’ chair, and I have a strong and positive relationship with NUS elected officers. The NUS is a major partner for the Office for Students, and we are working closely with them across a variety of issues.’

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