The Office for Students is investigating eight leading universities and colleges over their business and management courses after the government asked England’s independent higher education regulator to do so, as part of what the Ministers plan “on-the-ground” investigations involving campus visits.
The OfS said on May 26 that it had ‘launched eight new surveys designed to tackle poor quality courses’ and would not name the establishments under investigation ‘at this stage. “, but expected to release further details of the investigations soon.
“This series of surveys will focus specifically on business and management courses, including a review to determine whether shoddy online learning has replaced face-to-face teaching to the detriment of students’ academic experience. “, he added.
The surveys “will examine whether courses at the eight universities and colleges meet the OfS quality requirements, which came into force in May this year”, the regulator said.
The surveys will cover three of these quality requirements: B1, requiring “that all students receive a high-quality academic experience”, meaning that “courses should be up-to-date, challenging and well-delivered, and equip students with the skills what they will need”. post-graduation”; B2, requiring that they “receive the resources and support they need to be successful in their courses and after graduation”; and B4, which “checks down on grade inflation by requiring universities and colleges to effectively assess students and award qualifications that are credible and stand the test of time”.
With regard to business and management, the OfS described this as “a broad area where there is significant variation in performance across the sector, as evidenced by insights from student achievement data and responses to the national student survey”, where this information “raises concerns”. on the quality of the business and management courses of certain providers”.
The first round of surveys focuses on large universities and colleges “because any intervention to improve quality will have a positive impact on a significant number of students”, he also said.
The OfS will ‘write to the eight individual universities and colleges this week explaining the details of the investigations’.
‘Each investigation will involve an on-site visit, and the OfS is inviting applications from academic experts to help undertake this on-site assessment work,’ it added.
In March, ministers told the OfS in a letter that its ‘survey priorities’ should include ‘a set of surveys focused on a group of major subjects with large numbers of students and high variation in results , such as computer science or law, with the intention of improving the quality of these courses across the sector”.
Their letter also called for ‘on-site inspections’ by the OfS, aimed at ensuring ‘online learning is used to complement and enhance a student’s learning experience, not undermine it’. and to review “the provision of sufficient contact hours, particularly where this has been flagged by student inquiries”.
The OfS began operations in 2018 after being set up by the Conservative government. Universities fear that the OfS, chaired by Tory counterpart Lord Wharton, is far closer to government than its predecessor, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which acted as a buffer between ministers and the sector.
Amid growing economic and political skepticism among Tory ministers about the expansion of higher education, they want to continue cracking down on what they see as “low quality” courses.
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said in response to the OfS announcement: ‘This is the first wave of a set of on-the-ground surveys which the Secretary of State and I have requested It is up to the OfS to lead, ensuring that students receive sufficient face-to-face contact hours, attend high-quality stretching classes, and are assessed rigorously and fairly.
“It’s just part of my drive to tackle shoddy pockets that let students down, increase transparency and provide real social mobility.”
Susan Lapworth, acting chief executive of the OfS, said: “We know that students have gone through an exceptionally difficult time during the pandemic. While most classes have returned to normal, it is only fair for the OfS to wonder whether some universities and colleges are short-selling students.
She added: ‘The launch of these surveys signals a move by the OfS towards actively regulating quality in the higher education sector.’