Universities face fines if not enough students get jobs after graduating

They could also be fined for having high dropout rates

English universities could face fines if not enough students go on to professional work after graduating, the Office for Students has warned.

The OfS, England’s higher education regulator, has published new minimum thresholds universities must meet or else risk hefty fines, as part of clamping down “low quality” courses which don’t improve students’ prospects.

For universities to avoid sanctions, almost two thirds (60 per cent) of students on full-time undergraduate courses will need to be doing further study, in professional jobs, or in “other positive outcomes” such as setting up their own business, within 15 months after graduating.

Unis could also face fines for high dropout rates, including if more than 25 per cent of students who start a course do not go on to complete it.

Susan Lapworth, chief executive of the OfS, said “too many students” from disadvantaged backgrounds are recruited onto university degrees which don’t improve their chances in life.

33 universities with almost 30,000 students are at risk of breaching the OfS dropout rates thresholds, of more than a quarter of students dropping out before finishing their degree, The Telegraph reports. And over 11,000 at 62 unis and colleges do not currently meet the required minimum proportion of students securing jobs within 15 months after graduating.

Susan Lapworth said: “Many universities and colleges deliver successful outcomes for their students and our new thresholds should not trouble them. But too many students, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, are recruited onto courses with weak outcomes which do not improve their life chances. We can now intervene where outcomes for students are low, and where universities and colleges cannot credibly explain why.

“We recognise that students choose higher education for a variety of reasons. Many are focused on improving their career prospects and it is right that we’re prepared to tackle courses with low numbers of students going into professional work. Our new approach also takes into account other positive outcomes, for example, further study, or graduates building their own business or a portfolio career.

“Most higher education students in England are on courses with outcomes above our thresholds, often significantly so. These courses put students in a good position to continue their successes after graduation. But today’s decision provides a clear incentive for universities and colleges to take credible action to improve the outcomes of courses which may be cause for concern.”

A spokesperson for Universities UK said: “In the vast majority of cases, students going to university can expect to have a good experience, a world-leading education and being able to pursue their interests and goals.

“Information about students’ outcomes and progression is regularly used to inform course development. We welcome increased transparency across the sector, and continue to work with universities to ensure they communicate clearly the value of their courses to prospective students, employers and the public.”

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