TBA Global

Poor quality university courses face limits on student numbers

The government’s new plan indicates that universities may face new restrictions when admitting students into courses deemed to be of lower quality. Poor-quality courses are likely to include those with high dropout rates, or a low proportion of students entering relevant employment after graduation. The government will also consider the potential earnings of students after graduation to determine if a degree offers sufficient value.


Prime Minister Sunak stated, ‘The UK has some of the best universities in the world, and pursuing a degree can lead to tremendous returns. However, too many young people are holding onto ‘false dreams’ and enrolling in low-quality courses that do not provide decent job prospects, all funded by taxpayers’. According to data from the Office for Students (OfS), nearly one-third of graduates do not enter high-skilled jobs or further study within 15 months after graduation.


The OfS has the authority to investigate and penalize universities whose degrees fall below the minimum performance threshold. Additionally, the OfS, rather than the Department for Education, will determine which courses qualify as poor-quality, and will therefore face restrictions on enrolment.

However, this raises another question: if some courses are of such poor quality, why not simply abolish them? The Education Minister Robert Halfon said in an interview that placing restrictions rather than banning these courses means they will have the opportunity to improve their quality. He stated that ‘Students will have more awareness of these majors and make informed choices about their teaching quality. If a course does not perform well, they may choose other courses, and of course, they can still choose that course, but with enrolment restrictions’.


Furthermore, the government also expressed its stance on changing university preparatory courses. On one hand, the government decided to lower the fees for preparatory courses, but at the same time, it mentioned that certain subjects, such as business, do not require extensive preparatory study.


The Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Philipson responded that this announcement was a ‘blow to young people’s aspirations’, and restricts their power to choose their future. However, Halfon responded that this is baseless, arguing that the Labour Party has always focused excessively on quantity rather than quality, and has consistently supported low-quality education.


Similar to the Labour Party’s view, voices opposing this policy are concerned that students from disadvantaged backgrounds may find it difficult to pursue further education, and they demand that any policy reform should prioritise students’ interests. Restricting university courses or preparatory studies could further complicate the pursuit of education for disadvantaged groups.

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