Over 2 million people are students at higher education institutions in England, mostly at universities, with The Department for Education providing £9 billion of up-front funding each year for higher education in England. The Government recently introduced changes to the regulation of higher education to address concerns that students were not always getting a good service.
The objectives for the reforms included introducing more competition and wider variety of options into the higher education market. The original aim of introducing a market into higher education was that student choice and competition between providers would improve quality and value for money.
In their report, The Higher Education Market published in June 2018, the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts concluded "In reality the planned for competition did not emerge."
The full report is available here, but their conclusions and recommendations are:
1) The Department treats the higher education sector as a market, but it is not a market that is working in the interests of students or taxpayers.
The Department should write to the committee by October 2018 to explain what it expects a successful higher education market to look like.
2) Young people are not being properly supported in making decisions on higher education, due in large part to insufficient and inconsistent careers advice.
The Department should write to the Committee by October 2018 with details of progress it has made with its careers strategy and the impact it is having. It should set up an evaluation framework to enable it to assess progress.
3) The Department does not have enough of a grip on actions to widen participation in higher education, and is over-reliant on the actions of some universities.
The Department should provide us with evidence of how it is widening participation and opening higher education to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Department should demonstrate how they will maintain pressure on providers to measure success.
4) Students have limited means of redress if they are unhappy with the quality of their course, even if they drop out.
In developing the new regulatory framework, the Department and OfS must ensure students’ interests are protected. The OfS should include clear guidelines to enable students to shift courses or institutions more easily.
5) The new Office for Students has not yet articulated how it will support the varied and complex interests of students.
The Office for Students should report back in six months to set out in detail how it will measure and report on its performance in regulating for students, and be clear about what its priorities are in protecting student interests.