Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
“Students deserve a regulator that enforces high standards and guards against poor value for money, as they may spend much of their working life paying back the cost of their higher education.
“If we are to uphold our worldwide reputation for learning urgent changes must be made to the regulatory system, including new legislation to make it easier to remove degree-awarding powers from failing institutions, and better information for prospective students.”
- Previous Which? research has found a number of areas of concern in higher education where action should be taken, including:
- Students unhappy with the academic experience: Only half (49%) of students think the amount of work they have to do is demanding, only four in ten (39%) say the content of the work is stretching and less than half (45%) feel that seminars are generally worth attending.
- Poor value for money: A fifth (18%) of graduates felt the experience at university was poor value for money, with the top reasons given as inconsistent teaching quality (53%), not enough support to find a good job (53%), too few contact hours (47%) and too many cancelled sessions or poor timetabling (45%). A third (35%) said they’d be unlikely to go to university now faced with higher fees.
- Which? is calling for:
- Improved regulation: The Quality Assurance Agency should use the revised Key Information Set to inform inspections, and focus more heavily on standards to ensure this market works in the best interest of students. In the longer term, it should be easier for degree-awarding powers to be removed from failing institutions.
- Improved information and advice: The Government to require universities to include better information in the Key Information Set to help people make an informed choice, including on: the academic offer, costs and financial support, support to get a job and long-term job prospects, and complaints.
- Improved consumer protection: Minimum standards for complaints and a standard format for higher education contracts should be introduced, and all students should have access to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.