MPs raise concerns about higher education market

18 Jun 18

The higher education market is not working in the interest of students or taxpayers, the Public Accounts Committee has said.

The Office for Students and the Department for Education must define what value for money looks like, the cross-party group of MPs claimed in a report published today.

According to the PAC, since 2007-8, funding for higher education has increased by 50% – primarily due to increased tuition fees. It was therefore “critical” that the sector offers value for money.

However, the complexity of the market and the volume of information available make it “difficult” for prospective students to assess the quality of higher education institutions.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “The advice available to help students, in the overwhelming majority of cases teenagers, make informed choices is inadequate.

“Should students then be unhappy with the course they choose, they are not sufficiently empowered to switch providers or get their money back.”

The report stated that if a student switches providers or drops out, they are unlikely to get any of their fees refunded unless they can demonstrate that they were misled in some way.

The PAC called on the OfS to provide guidelines to enable students to shift courses or institutions more easily.

“Much rides on the ability of the new OfS to function as an effective regulator and as a priority we expect it to set out in detail exactly how it will approach the task of safeguarding students’ interests,” Hillier said.

Universities minister Sam Gyimah said: “Our review of post-18 education and funding is also looking at how we can drive up quality, increase choice and ensure value for money for students and taxpayers.”

Last week, a House of Lords committee recommended the government cut interest rates on student loans.

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