The university courses in the Government’s sights for not meeting new ‘quality standards’

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The university courses in the Government’s sights for not meeting new ‘quality standards’
© Provided by The i Universities not meeting new thresholds proposed by the Office for Students have been threatened with fines or having their access to student loan cash restricted (Photo: David Cheskin/PA)

Courses at 26 universities in England could be under threat for not meeting new standards set by the Government.

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This week, the Office for Students – which regulates universities in England – launched a consultation on new “minimum acceptable” standards in a bid to tackle “poor quality courses”.

For each undergraduate degree, universities will be expected to have 80 per cent of students continuing into the second year of their course, 75 per cent completing their qualification, and 60 per cent going into “professional employment or further study” after graduation.

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Universities not meeting the thresholds have been threatened with fines or having their access to student loan cash restricted.

However, some commentators have said the measures will punish universities serving students from the most disadvantaged communities.

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According to data crunched by the Onward think-tank, 26 universities had subject areas where 2018-19 degree starters are not projected to hit the targets for both course completion and progression.

The University of Wolverhampton had the highest number of subjects judged to be low value according to the criteria. Five subject areas failed to meet the thresholds: sociology, social policy and anthropology; psychology; law; creative arts and design; and business and management.

London Metropolitan University and London South Bank University both had three subject areas not meeting the thresholds.

Professor Julia Clarke, the deputy vice-chancellor of Wolverhampton, told i that “overall” the university met the continuation and progression thresholds being proposed, missing the completion bar “very narrowly”.

“We have a long history of increasing and widening participation in higher education, and what the proposed metrics do not consider is the distance travelled by students,” she said.

She added: “Enhancing the student experience and providing support to enable students from a diverse range of backgrounds the best chance of success is at the very heart of everything we do.”

A spokeswoman for London Met said: “We’re aware of the proposals from the OfS and we welcome the opportunity to contribute to the consultation. It will be important to consider the impact these thresholds will have on students that are less represented in higher education, which institutions like ours serve.”

On Thursday, the universities minister Michelle Donelan said the measures would shield students from “rip-off courses”.

Writing for i, she said that students deserved similar protections to “when consumers buy a product in a shop”, including evidence that a “product has satisfied minimum standards”.

“Students will be able to select their course knowing that, like the food in their fridge or the car on their driveway, their course has reached a minimum acceptable standard for quality and outcome,” she said.

London South Bank was contacted for comment.

The full list of universities with at least one subject area not meeting both proposed completion and progression targets:

Anglia Ruskin University

Buckinghamshire New University

Canterbury Christ Church University

Edge Hill University

Goldsmiths’ College

Kingston University

Liverpool Home University

London Metropolitan University

London South Bank University

Middlesex University

Nelson College London

Roehampton University

Staffordshire University

The University of Bolton

The University of West London

The University of Westminster

University College Birmingham

University of Bedfordshire

University of Brighton

University of Central Lancashire

University of Chester

University of East London

The University of Salford

University of St Mark & St John

University of Sunderland

University of Wolverhampton

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