Six in 10 graduates must find work in 15 months, OfS confirms

English regulator announces long-awaited thresholds higher education providers must meet to avoid the risk of sanctions

September 30, 2022
Workers, jobs, city of London
Source: iStock

Sixty per cent of students will be expected to have gone on to further study or professional work within 15 months of graduating under plans confirmed by the English regulator.

The Office for Students has announced long-awaited thresholds that higher education providers need to meet to avoid investigations, and possible sanctions, as part of its drive to increase quality in the sector.

Starting next week, the “minimum expectations” placed on providers will include a target of at least 80 per cent of those studying full time for a first degree continuing with their studies, 75 per cent completing their course and 60 per cent either continuing to further study, finding work or being engaged in “other positive outcomes” – such as setting up their own business, travelling or taking on caring responsibilities – by the end of the 15-month period.

The OfS warned that it would investigate universities and colleges that do not meet the thresholds “to understand the reasons for their performance”. If it is not satisfied with explanations of why outcomes are not being met, it “has the power to intervene and impose sanctions for a breach of its conditions of registration”, the regulator said.

Different thresholds will be set for different courses “depending on their mode and level of study”, for example whether a student is studying part time or at a postgraduate level. The regulator said it would also “consider performance in individual subjects, to ensure pockets of poor performance can be identified and addressed”.

It has previously been warned that most universities had at least one subject area with completion and progression outcomes below the thresholds. Dropout rates at UK universities are also on the increase as a result of the rising cost of living.

Data released by the OfS on 30 September show that 3.5 per cent of full-time first-degree students are at universities below the continuation measure, 2 per cent below the completion measure and 2.5 per cent below the progression measure.

Susan Lapworth, the newly confirmed chief executive of the OfS, said the new thresholds “should not trouble” the many universities that “deliver successful outcomes for their students”.

“But too many students, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, are recruited on to 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,” she added.

“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,” Ms Lapworth continued.

“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.”

tom.williams@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Is this realistic? I left university in 1983. It was 1989 before I landed a 'professional' post, the intervening years languish on my CV as "series of non-professional jobs"... OK, I was a botanist and there didn't seem much call for them at the time, so I switched trades & went to work in a software house. I am now a computer science academic! You never know where you'll end up, but I'm sure I'm no exception :)

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