UK Higher Education Watchdog to Ensure Students Get Value for Tuition


A new Green Paper by the UK government proposes a new teaching excellence framework through which universities will be assessed on their abilities to provide sufficient information to students regarding their education and career prospects. Institutions that prove capable of offering excellent teaching standards will be allowed to raise their annual fees over £9,000.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson says that if universities want to charge more to keep up with inflation, they need to prove that they can offer substantial value for students’ money. Johnson hopes to achieve this through his radical plan for a university teaching standards framework and the student champion, Office for Students.

His HE green paper titled “Fulfilling Our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility, and Student Choice” strives to ensure that student funds are well invested in schools that can truly offer high-quality education. Johnson said according to the Daily Mail:

“Our ambition is to drive up the quality of teaching in our universities to ensure students and taxpayers get value for money and employers get graduates with the skills they need. The new Office for Students would have a clear remit to champion value for money and the student interest in its decision-making.”

Universities will have to submit information such as employment data to help students make an informed decision as to which school is capable of offering them a more promising career path. Universities that don’t make the cut won’t be allowed to increase their annual fees.

This framework, if implemented, will urge universities to upgrade their current offerings to ensure that these can be easily linked to a career path or profession, Javier Espinoza of the Telegraph notes.

Through a new regulator and champion of students, the Office for Students — or ‘Ofstud’ — individuals whose universities do not meet the teaching standard expectations will receive a refund of part of their student fees in case the university doesn’t manage to transfer the student to a different school, The Telegraph says.

By urging universities to offer adequate information to students, the HE watchdog will make institutions more accountable and push them to improve the quality and quantity of their courses.

At the same time, Ofstud will be able to force universities to make education more easily accessible to disadvantaged individuals. As the Daily Mail says, a social mobility plan will be introduced as a solution for increasing the number of black and minority students by 20% over the next four years, as Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged.

The coalition government of 2010 introduced the tuition fees increase in an effort to provide more options to students and give the opportunity for new institutions to enter the sector.

In reality, what the tuition increase meant was that the majority of UK schools increased their fees, but only a few new providers became accredited schools, Sean Coughlan, education correspondent for the BBC, reports. As he notes, the annual fee increase to £9,000 has transformed the relationship between students and schools by turning it into a “transactional, contractual arrangement.”