Monday, December 15, 2014

Private Colleges Risk ‘Tarnishing the Reputation’ of the UK Higher Education System

by , Schools Improvement Net: 

The Telegraph is reporting that the head of the universities watchdog has warned a rapid expansion in the number of students enrolled at private colleges risks “tarnishing the reputation” of the higher education system …

Sharp increases in enrolments combined with high drop-out rates is resulting in a “waste of public money” at some institutions, said Christopher Banks, chairman of the Quality Assurance Agency.

He announced a toughening up of the vetting process for colleges which could include more rigorous checks every 12 months and a closer investigation into attendance records.

The comments were made after auditors warned earlier this month that students from EU countries including Romania and Bulgaria had falsely claimed more than £5 million from the public purse to study at “alternative” higher education providers.

The National Audit Office said half of EU students applying for support over a nine-month period were potentially ineligible for the money.

It found drop-out rates for full-time students at private colleges were three times higher than mainstream universities and a fifth of students were not even properly registered on courses.
In his first interview since taking over at the watchdog, Mr Banks said it was “time to get a grip” on the problem …

“Making sure that only eligible students access loans is critical, as is ensuring that students with a realistic prospect of completing the course successfully should be enrolled.”

He added: “I would like to make sure we quickly respond and reinforce the need for consistent quality in higher education, because there is a danger, otherwise, that [the growth of private providers] will tarnish the reputation of the sector …”.

Are you concerned by what seems to be happening at some private higher education colleges - the implication being that places are being used as an excuse to access loans - and do you welcome the comments made here by Christopher Banks? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter …

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