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OfS sets new expectations for student outcomes

The Office for Students has published new thresholds which set minimum expectations for the proportion of students on higher education courses who continue on their course, graduate, and go on to further study or find a professional job.

For full-time students studying for a first degree, the thresholds require that 60 per cent of students to go on to further study, professional work, or other "positive outcomes", within 15 months of graduating. The OfS also says it expects 80 per cent to continue in their studies, and at least 75 per cent to complete their course.

The thresholds have been set following an extensive consultation process, with views from students and their representatives, and universities and colleges, considered. Different thresholds have been set for courses depending on their mode and level of study, which take into account the differences in outcomes for students who study full- and part-time, and those on undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The OfS says it will also consider performance in individual subjects, to ensure pockets of poor performance can be identified and addressed.

Commenting Susan Lapworth, chief executive of the OfS, said: "Many universities and colleges deliver successful outcomes for their students and our new thresholds should not trouble them. But too many students, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, are recruited onto courses with weak outcomes which do not improve their life chances. We can now intervene where outcomes for students are low, and where universities and colleges cannot credibly explain why.

"We recognise that students choose higher education for a variety of reasons. Many are focused on improving their career prospects and it is right that we’re prepared to tackle courses with low numbers of students going into professional work. Our new approach also takes into account other positive outcomes, for example, further study, or graduates building their own business or a portfolio career.

"Most higher education students in England are on courses with outcomes above our thresholds, often significantly so. These courses put students in a good position to continue their successes after graduation. But today’s decision provides a clear incentive for universities and colleges to take credible action to improve the outcomes of courses which may be cause for concern."