Further Education: Standards

Department for Education written question – answered at on 18 June 2020.

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Photo of Mary Foy Mary Foy Labour, City of Durham

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the effect on the (a) quality of education at universities and (b) the attainment of students of universities that are planning to operate online during the 2020/21 academic year.

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan Minister of State (Education)

Higher education providers reacted rapidly to move provision online (in many cases within 24 hours), to enable higher education students to complete the 2019/20 academic year. Providers are currently planning to move to blended or dual provision for the next academic year. They have redesigned courses and timetables to be suitable for these new styles of delivery, as well as front-loading the year with more online friendly provision and moving areas which require practical, face-to-face teaching or assessment to the back of the academic year.

Providers have also demonstrated a high level of agility while addressing issues around infrastructure, changing course content and developing new methods of assessment. To help support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19, the government has worked closely with the Office for Students (OfS) to clarify that providers can draw upon existing funding worth around £23 million per month for June and July, towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment.

The OfS has published information and guidance for providers and students, including frequently asked questions on a broad range of issues. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has also published a series of guides to support providers to secure academic standards and to support student achievement during the outbreak. The OfS has made it clear that all higher education providers must continue to meet conditions related to the quality of their courses and the standard of qualifications that they award. This means ensuring that higher education courses are high quality, that students are supported and achieve good outcomes and that standards are protected.

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