News Writer Arjan Dhaliwal reports on the Office of Students’ announcement to fine UK universities over student dropout and graduate employment rates

Written by Arjan Dhaliwal
Images by Christopher Bill

According to the Office of Students (OfS), universities will face consequences if not enough students go on to graduate-level employment within 15 months, or if too many drop out or fail to get degrees.

The OfS announced its new tests of ‘poor quality’ courses, which may result in substantial penalties or deregistration for universities when less than 60% of graduates in a university’s subject area find a job, start their own business, or continue their education after finishing their degree, with adjustments given for individuals who travel or have care obligations.

Graduation incomes do not always represent the worth of a certain course

It was mentioned in The New Statesman, that Sunak also declared during his Conservative Party leadership attempt that he wanted to ‘reform’ post-16 education, with plans for a ‘significant stride towards parity of respect between vocational and academic education.’ He stated he would evaluate university degrees based on drop-out rates, graduate employment numbers, and wage levels – with exceptions for nursing and other courses with high ‘social value.’ Many in the education industry, however, have criticised the strategy: pointing out that graduation incomes do not always represent the worth of a certain course.

The OfS may also impose sanctions on universities in England if more than one in every five full-time students drop out, or if more than one in every four of those who finish the course fail to graduate.

OfS have also stated that they will study topics at colleges and universities that did not reach any of the three standards and probe the reasons for the findings. In circumstances where the OfS remains dissatisfied with an institution’s justifications, the regulator said that the OfS ‘has the ability to intervene and apply consequences for a breach of its terms of registration’, as reported by The Guardian.

The OfS may also impose sanctions on universities in England if more than one in every five full-time students drop out

However, university administrators claim that graduate employment rates can be influenced by economic circumstances beyond their control, and that early careers in topics such as creative arts are difficult to compare to courses with traditional career pathways such as finance and accounting. According to a spokeswoman for the Universities UK association, its members are already tailoring their courses based on information regarding student results and growth, with most graduates enjoying their student experience and fulfilling their personal objectives.

Part-time, postgraduate, and apprenticeship courses will have different eligibility requirements. According to the OfS figures for 2020-21, little over 3% of full-time students were studying at institutions that fell below the continuation measure, while 2.5% were enrolled in courses that fell below the employment criterion.

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