Regulator names subjects facing student outcomes scrutiny

English regulator focuses on law, business and computing courses not meeting thresholds for continuation, completion and progression

November 18, 2022
Inspection, man looking under car bonnet
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Courses in law, psychology and sport have been chosen alongside computing and business degrees as subjects that the Office for Students will prioritise as it begins investigating providers over student outcomes which are perceived to be poor.

The English regulator has released the criteria it will use to select which universities and colleges will be the focus of assessment in 2022 as part of its efforts aimed at improving quality across the sector.

In September, the OfS set thresholds for continuation, completion and progression rates that providers would be expected to meet, and it has begun recruiting investigators, with “boots on the ground” inspections imminent.

For the first round of assessments, the focus will be full-time degree programmes, with first degrees and postgraduate taught master’s coming under particular scrutiny.

The full list of subject areas being prioritised is: business and management; computing; law; psychology; sociology, anthropology and social policy; sport and exercise sciences; history; and archaeology.

Up to 20 providers will be subjected to assessments, if their courses are producing outcomes below the thresholds. The OfS said it will look at numerical performance as well as a provider’s “context”, which includes “reasons for, or actions to address, its performance”.

For 2023, a “provisional decision” has been made to focus on the outcomes for full-time “other undergraduate” and first degree courses but this will be confirmed next year alongside any other categories for prioritisation.

Institutions could ultimately be fined or be stripped of their registration with the OfS if they are found to be in breach of the “B3 condition” without good reason.

OfS chief executive Susan Lapworth has previously said the thresholds should not “trouble” most universities that provide good outcomes for their students but cautioned “too many” courses “do not improve the life chances” of those taking them. It has been warned that most universities have at least one subject area with completion and progression outcomes below the line deemed acceptable by the OfS.

The regulator said providers selected for further assessment would be notified in writing in “November or December”.

tom.williams@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

This is ridiculous. It has long been recognised in business the post-hoc inspections are hopeless.

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