We want every student, whatever their background and circumstances, to get the support they need to make the higher education choice that is right for them. Information alone is not enough to achieve this. It requires a coherent and responsive approach to information, advice and guidance that takes account of individual needs and circumstances. This document is a response to research commissioned by the Office for Students and sets out our work to improve information, advice and guidance for students.
Making the decision to go into higher education is unlike anything else. It’s a hugely important and exciting time – but also potentially stressful. The rewards can be vast and enduring, but the stakes are high.
The higher education system is complex, and every prospective student has different needs. Students tell us that they often struggle to get the information, advice and guidance they need to decide whether, what, and where to study. They are unsure which of the many sources of information are relevant or reliable, and information is not always easy to find or to understand.
The Office for Students is committed to empowering all students, regardless of their background, to ask the right questions and get the answers and the support they need. This has to start with understanding how students make decisions, how they use information, and how we can design a system around their information needs. Here we set out what we have found and what needs to change.
Why is this work important?
As the independent regulator of higher education in England, the Office for Students’ role is to champion students’ interests. As a new organisation, we’re still developing our approach, but we have a clear mission: to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.
High-quality, impartial information, advice and guidance is critical if students are to find a course that is right for them. Better informed choices have the potential to result in more students completing their studies and achieving positive outcomes. These could be in terms of employment, further study, wellbeing, resilience, or the satisfaction of developing their knowledge, skills and experience. In addition to personal outcomes, we know that there are broader societal benefits from individuals having a successful higher education experience, not least due to the role that this can play in driving social mobility.