The Office for Students (OfS), the independent regulator of higher education in England, has today launched eight new investigations designed to tackle poor quality courses.
This set of investigations will look specifically at business and management courses, including an examination of whether poor quality online learning has replaced face to face teaching to the detriment of students’ academic experience.
The investigations will consider whether courses at the eight universities and colleges meet the OfS’s conditions for quality, which came into effect in May this year.
Other factors to be considered include whether the delivery of courses and assessment is effective, the contact hours students receive, and whether the learning resources and academic support available to students are sufficient. To support this work the OfS is recruiting a pool of experienced academics to lead the investigative work.
The OfS is not naming the universities and colleges under investigation at this stage, but expects to publish further details of the investigations soon.
Susan Lapworth, interim chief executive of the OfS, said:
'We know that students have endured an exceptionally difficult time during the pandemic. While most courses have returned to normal, it is right for the OfS to consider whether some universities and colleges are selling students short. It is also right that we look at the quality of business and management courses more generally because around 400,000 students at OfS-registered providers study this subject every year and they are entitled to expect a high quality experience regardless of the provider they choose.
'The launch of these investigations signals a shift for the OfS to active regulation of quality in the higher education sector. As well as the direct impact on the courses under investigation, this work sends a clear message to all universities and colleges we regulate that they should ensure that all their courses are well taught, well resourced, and provide students with a credible qualification that stands the test of time. Where that is the case, they should not be concerned about our regulation. Where it is not, we are ready to require improvement and to consider imposing sanctions.'
- In line with the OfS’s risk-based approach to regulation, we are focusing on business and management courses. This is a large subject area where there is significant variation in performance across the sector, as shown in intelligence drawn from student outcomes data and National Student Survey responses. This intelligence gives rise to concerns about the quality of business and management courses for some providers and these are the focus of our investigations.
- Focusing on a single subject area with a large student population will enable us to understand patterns of provider behaviour that might extend to other subjects in the same provider as well as patterns of behaviour that might be replicated in other providers that deliver business and management courses.
- In this first round of investigations the OfS is focusing on universities and colleges with larger student populations because any interventions we make to improve quality will have a positive impact on a significant number of students.
- The OfS will write to the eight individual universities and colleges this week setting out details of the investigations. Each investigation will involve an onsite visit, and the OfS is inviting applications from academic experts to help undertake this onsite assessment work.
- The OfS is conducting a separate review which will consider how some universities are delivering blended learning. A report in summer 2022 will set out where approaches represent high quality teaching and learning, as well as approaches that are likely to fall short of the OfS’s requirements.
- Alongside the recruitment of academic assessors, the OfS is also recruiting for academic and student members for the proposed TEF panel. Full details about opportunities to become a TEF panel member will be available on the OfS website.