Higher Education: Quality and Choice

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk

What steps his Department is taking to increase quality and choice in higher education.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

The Office for Students holds providers to account for delivering well-designed courses that offer successful outcomes for all students. The teaching excellence and student outcomes framework —TEF—is supporting student choice, and we are developing new digital tools to help prospective students make choices based on graduate outcomes data.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk

Does my hon. Friend agree that parents probably now take for granted the fact that we have Ofsted, which makes public and readily available the performance of schools, enabling parents to make choices for their children’s futures? Does he agree that we want the OfS to have a similar role in future, so that we embed the idea of potential students making choices on the basis of clear data and so drive up standards at the higher education level?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

Absolutely. I look forward to working with the OfS in future, above all to help deliver the best possible outcomes for students, based on the publication of transparent data. The OfS requires providers to meet high-quality standards, which are assessed by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. As I say, we have introduced the TEF to identify and reward institutions that deliver high-quality teaching and positive student outcomes.

Photo of Louise Haigh Louise Haigh Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing)

How many universities are currently considered at risk of insolvency? Does the Minister agree that allowing universities to fail would improve neither quality, nor choice? If he does agree with that, will he give us a categorical assurance that that will not happen on his watch?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

All universities are autonomous institutions that have the independence to be able to govern their own finances. The OfS is currently going through a process of re-registration of certain institutions, and I hope that all institutions have put in place sound financial measures to continue for the future. If that is not the case, the Government are working with the OfS towards establishing student protection plans, to ensure that all students’ education will not be harmed.