Robert Halfon backs plans to clamp down on “rip off degrees”

Education / Mon 17th Jul 2023 at 09:49am

STUDENTS and taxpayers will be “better protected against rip-off degree courses” that have high drop-out rates, don’t lead to good jobs and leave young people with poor pay and high debts, the Prime Minister and Education Secretary have announced.

Under the plans, the Office for Students (OfS) will be asked to limit the number of students universities can recruit onto courses that are failing to deliver good outcomes for students.

Education Minister and Harlow MP Robert Halfon did the rounds on television and radio this morning in an attempt to defend the plans.

Many were hoping that he could identify particular courses at particular educational establishments that were offering “Micky Mouse degrees.

Here is the rest of the government press release.

The UK has some of the world’s leading universities, but a minority of the courses on offer leave students saddled with debt, low earnings and faced with poor job prospects. The government wants to make the system fairer for them, but also for taxpayers – who make a huge investment in higher education and are liable for billions of pounds in unrecovered tuition fees if graduate earnings are low.

Figures from the Office for Students show that nearly three in ten graduates do not progress into highly skilled jobs or further study 15 months after graduating. The Institute for Fiscal Studies also estimates that one in five graduates would be better off financially if they hadn’t gone to university.

The government wants to make sure that universities and colleges are offering the same standard of high-quality provision expected in our schools, and that young people are encouraged to choose the path that is right for them – whether it’s a university degree, a higher technical qualification, or an apprenticeship.

As part of today’s announcements, the government will also reduce the maximum fee that universities can charge for classroom-based foundation year courses to £5,760 – down from £9,250 currently.

These are an additional year of study designed to help prepare students for degrees with specific entry requirements or knowledge, such as in medicine and veterinary sciences. However, research shows that too many people are encouraged to take a foundation year in some subjects like business where it is not necessary.

The Office for Students will also continue work to make it easier for students to assess the quality of each university course, including its earnings potential, so that they can make the most informed decision about where and what to study. We are asking the Office for Students to ensure that courses which fail to deliver good earnings are subject to stricter controls.

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said:

The UK is home to some of the best universities in the world and studying for a degree can be immensely rewarding.

But too many young people are being sold a false dream and end up doing a poor-quality course at the taxpayers’ expense that doesn’t offer the prospect of a decent job at the end of it.

That is why we are taking action to crack down on rip-off university courses, while boosting skills training and apprenticeships provision.

This will help more young people to choose the path that is right to help them reach their potential and grow our economy.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said:

Students and taxpayers rightly expect value for money and a good return on the significant financial investment they make in higher education.

These new measures will crack down on higher education providers that continue to offer poor quality courses and send a clear signal that we will not allow students to be sold a false promise. Wherever they choose to study, it is vital students can gain the skills needed to get great jobs and succeed – supporting the Prime Minister’s priority to grow our economy.

Philip Augar, chair of the independent Review of Post-18 Education and Funding, said:

This is another strong signal for universities to control such recruitment as is not in students’ best interests and I hope the sector responds constructively.

Edward Peck, Vice-Chancellor and President Nottingham Trent University and panel member of the independent Review of Post-18 Education and Funding, said:

Following careful consideration and extensive consultation, the reform agenda for higher education being pursued by Government is consistent with the approach articulated in the Augar Review.

The alignment of the fee for Foundation Years with that of Access to HE for lower cost subjects is in the interests of students as is the proposition that the future refinement of the quality framework deployed by the Office for Students, including potential selective student number controls, should make subject appropriate use of graduate salaries.

Baroness Alison Wolf, panel member of the independent Review of Post-18 Education and Funding, said:

I am delighted that the government has introduced reforms for foundation year courses, whose current meteoric growth is hard to justify educationally or in cost terms.

Aligning their fees explicitly with college-based access courses should also promote the greater alignment of further and higher education to which the government is, rightly, committed.

The government has already taken decisive steps to make sure young people and adults can access more high-quality training opportunities. This includes rolling out new T LevelsHigher Technical Qualifications, establishing a network of 21 Institutes of Technologyand working with employers of all sizes to create more apprenticeships in a wider range of exciting roles. Plans to expand UCAS to allow students to apply for apprenticeships alongside traditional degree have also been announced so thousands more young people can benefit from a wider choice of high-quality options.

Alongside the measures announced today to boost the quality of higher education, the government is going further still to support people and employers to take advantage of the wide range of free training options available to them, helping to fill skills gaps, get people into work and support the Prime Minister’s priority of growing the economy.

This includes launching a new digital platform from the autumn where people and employers can search for everything from apprenticeships and T Levels to Skills Bootcamps and essential skills courses – all in one place. The government is also making it easier for employers to take on apprentices. This includes by cutting the steps needed to register to take on an apprentice by a third and updating 100 apprenticeships in sectors such as construction and healthcare so they reflect the latest technological advancements and so they work better for employers and apprentices.

Anthony Impey, Chief Executive of Be The Business, said:

Small businesses are run by some of the country’s most impressive and resilient people, but they are time poor and lack the resources of their peers in much larger companies. So these changes will make a real difference in opening up apprenticeships at a time when small businesses are looking for all the help they can get to boost their productivity.

FD Works, Top 50 SME apprentice employer and accountancy firm based in Bristol said:

At FD Works, we believe that the power of apprentices is unmatched. The passion and perspective they bring have been a huge part of our ongoing success, but as a small business, our time is incredibly valuable. The investment far outweighs the cost already, but the Department for Education is continuously improving the system with us in mind, which is clear in this latest update.

As an innovative company, we’re really excited to see changes happening that will help us move quicker, share more opportunities, and empower even more apprentices to find a career they love.

Jane Gratton, Head of People Policy, British Chambers of Commerce said:

Apprenticeships are key to boosting technical skills in the workforce and helping firms tackle skills shortages. However, many firms with great apprenticeship opportunities have found the process difficult.  So it’s good to see Government taking steps in the right direction to reduce the complexity and excess bureaucracy in the apprenticeship system.

We also need more candidates to choose the apprenticeship route to employment and so we welcome initiatives that raise awareness and help match people to the great jobs and training available in local business communities throughout the country.

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15 Comments for Robert Halfon backs plans to clamp down on “rip off degrees”:

2023-07-17 10:13:15

What qualifications does a MP need?

2023-07-17 10:59:49

Well done Robert finding time to go on national TV to speak about something no one cares about. More people than ever using food banks. Tories out

2023-07-17 15:14:36

Sensible the world needs less arts and huminites graduates and more STEM grads. this is going to pop the hgher education bubble though

Jamie Warr
2023-07-17 16:09:31

His theme tune is "JACKANORY! JACKANORY!"

2023-07-17 18:42:45

Whenever there is a story here about RH, I like to have a look at what he might be trying to provide a distraction to. Today, I suspect it's this: Government promise of 40 'new' hospitals by 2030 set to be broken, report says. https://www.itv.com/news/2023-07-16/government-set-to-break-promise-of-40-new-hospitals-by-2030-report Perhaps instead of playing at culture wars, RH and the rest should explain why the government failed to achieve good value for money, when spending £1.1 billion of our money. Perhaps those even with “Micky Mouse degrees" would spend this money more wisely.

Luke Burton
2023-07-17 20:25:01

I am a STEM grad in a good, well-paying STEM job - but there's an oversupply of people like me. If there's such a shortage, then employers shouldn't need to put people like me through 2-day assessment centres and about 4 psychometric tests before even getting a first-stage interview?

2023-07-17 20:35:46

Luke what field? I suspect that is HR people playing silly buggers, it is all HR can do they add no overall value to a company. There is definitely a shortage in my field of electronics.

Luke Burton
2023-07-17 22:06:48

Software Engineering. I've also heard similar things for Software adjacent fields like Data Engineering and Data Science.

2023-07-17 22:25:41

What kind of Software - low level embedded ? The issue is often HR gate keeping

Luke Burton
2023-07-17 22:36:31

I'm a backend engineer - unfortunately, I despised my MIPS course at university ;(

2023-07-18 07:10:28

Why is Timmy Mallet talking about education on TV?

2023-07-18 07:44:23

Luke that is a shame, mind MIPS is horrible we do a lot of embedded C and Python if you fancy a chat

gary roberts
2023-07-18 08:26:28

"That is why we are taking action to crack down on rip-off university courses." Perhaps Mr. Halfon could give an example of a university course that is a rip-off or of a "low level"?

Guy Flegman
2023-07-18 08:47:41

Years ago the government stopped counting you as unemployed if you were in higher education, and since then they have encouraged everyone into higher education to keep the unemployment numbers down. Unfortunately lots of people were not suited to the traditional courses on offer, so newer less challenging courses were invented. They should never have moved away from polytechnic colleges and day release. If they had kept and encouraged day release we would not be looking for migrants to come here to fill all the vacancies in the building and engineering field.

David Forman
2023-07-18 09:45:35

The best way to ensure that students are not saddled with debt is to scrap tuition fees altogether. I think the Greens are the only party promising to do this.

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