Universities UK responds to OFT findings

Universities UK has responded to findings of Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report into undergraduate higher education in England

Universities UK has responded to the findings of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report into undergraduate higher education in England.

The OFT issued a call for information in October 2013 – the aim of the project being to understand whether universities in England, following recent funding reforms, are able to compete effectively and respond to students’ expectations. Today’s report is a summary of their findings and outlines whether any further action is warranted.

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, President of Universities UK, said: “We welcome the fact that the OFT, having considered the information, has found no evidence of collaboration on pricing and that they do not recommend any competition enforcement.

“Given the major changes the university sector in England has undergone in recent years, it is understandable that the OFT wanted to look into how the system is functioning. Universities have adapted well to these reforms, but there will, undoubtedly, be areas for development. Universities UK and the sector will work closely with the OFT to better understand the specific recommendations relating to regulation and consumer protection. While improvements to the system will be welcomed, it is important that the UK’s respected principle of co-regulation is upheld.

“We agree that students must have access to quality and accessible information about what they can expect from their courses. Universities have already put a lot of work into this area, with students now able to access Key Information Sets (KIS) on courses, providing information on areas such as course structure, employment prospects, and financial support.

“The move from public funding to increased fees has undoubtedly led to increased expectations from students. But the relationship between student and university remains unique. It will be essential to ensure that we do not end up applying wholesale consumer protection rules to higher education in a way that undermines that relationship, to the long term detriment of students. Universities in the UK are respected globally for the quality of education they provide, and we must ensure that remains the case.”

For further information on the OFT’s call for information, please visit the case page

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