Two-thirds of universities and colleges need improvement, says regulator

The director of competition and registration at the OfS said improvements are needed at almost every university

Two-thirds of registered universities and colleges need improvement and will be subject to additional monitoring, the Office for Students has said.

In a statement, the higher education regulator said the move had been prompted “in many cases because of concerns over teaching quality or levels of access and participation for disadvantaged and other underrepresented groups”.

The OfS said 252 institutions will be closely monitored and 297 had received a letter of warning from the regulator, drawing “attention to issues that, if not addressed, may result in further regulatory intervention in future”.

The regulator maintains the right to impose fines and deregister institutions which breach a condition of their registration.

We have found that it is necessary for us to take some form of action to ensure students’ interests are protected at almost every higher education provider
– Susan Lapworth, Office for Students

The watchdog has received over 500 applications, rejected eight and registered 387 providers – registration is a precondition for all universities and colleges that want their students to be able to access financial support from the Student Loans Company.

Read more: Students with unconditional offers more likely to drop out

Susan Lapworth, director of competition and registration at the OfS, said: “The registration process is a detailed, critical analysis of a university’s performance to date and its plans for the future. We have found that it is necessary for us to take some form of action to ensure students’ interests are protected at almost every higher education provider.

“We have done so proportionately, but without flinching from our overriding responsibility to students. We have imposed a range of measures and have refused applications which did not meet our regulatory conditions. The benefits of registration are significant and being prepared to take difficult decisions about individual providers is a fundamental part of our role.”

“Our higher education sector is rightly praised as world-leading. The sector should be proud of its achievements and its continuing ability to change lives for the better and society for good. But the analysis shows – starkly – that universities must improve the work they do to ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are supported not only to get into higher education, but to get on, too.

“Too many providers glossed over the possibility of closure in their student protection plans or relied on ambitious projections for student recruitment when making financial plans. Others have questions to answer about the quality of their provision, or high drop-out rates. These are not – by any means – insurmountable challenges but providers must now look honestly at areas of weakness and seek to make improvements.”

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