Universities Minister calls for a better deal for students

Universities risk jeopardising the credibility of the sector unless they improve the value offered by all courses, says Sam Gyimah

Speaking at the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) conference today (7 June) Sam Gyimah said there are courses on offer that do not lead to rewarding careers and made clear that all students deserve an excellent university experience.

The Minister was speaking ahead of the publication of new analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), commissioned by the Department for Education, which confirms a vast difference in earnings potential for graduates – emphasising the fact that where and what you study really matters and can significantly affect future earnings and career prospects.

The IFS analysis shows that women who study one of the bottom 100 courses have earnings up to 64% (approximately £17,000) less than the average degree after graduation. For men, it can be up to 67% (approximately £21,000).

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said:

"Today’s publication has important and far-reaching ramifications for the debate on value for money in Higher Education.

"These findings demonstrate that studying the same subject at a different institution can yield a very different earnings premium. The choices that students make about what and where to study does matter.

"We must build a system where everyone with the ability to benefit from a university education has the opportunity to attend, the information they need to make the right decision, and that when they go to university, they receive a first-rate education that delivers real value for money."

The Minister went on to challenge universities to review their offer to students:

"The clutch of underperforming degrees is a problem for students – it is likely they include many of the courses whose students feel they are not getting value for money.

"I believe mass participation in higher education is here to stay and is key to our economic future. But for this vision to be realised in full, universities need to focus relentlessly on value for money."

In addition to commissioning the IFS data, the government has introduced a number of measures to increase transparency in higher education including The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) to shine a light on standards of teaching at our universities.

It is going further than ever before by requiring all universities to publish applications, offers and acceptance rates broken down by gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background.

The Office for Students (OfS) is also playing a vital role championing the interests of students, promoting choice and helping to ensure that they are receiving a good deal for their investment in higher education.

In the coming weeks, Sam Gyimah will launch an Open Data competition – the first of its kind in the UK Higher Education sector – allowing tech companies and coders to use government data on universities to help students decide where to apply.

The findings today support the government’s ambition to ensure all students get a good deal for their investment on higher education and have access to the information they need to make decisions about their future.

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister announced a major review of post-18 education and funding that is looking at how students and taxpayers are getting value for money, helping young people make the right choices and ensuring we have a joined up tertiary education system.

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