Universities face cap on number of students taking ‘rip-off’ degrees

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The government has said it plans to cap the number of students accepted on to “rip-off” university degrees.

The limits will be imposed on courses that have high dropout rates or a low proportion of graduates getting a professional job.

Under the measures, the maximum fee that can be charged for classroom-based foundation year courses will also be reduced to £5,760 – down from £9,250.

The plans, announced by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, are part of the government’s response to the Augar review, established by Theresa May back in 2017.

Among the report’s recommendations – which also included cutting tuition fees and more funding for further education – was an aim to reduce the number of “low value” courses leaving students with poor job prospects.

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

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.”

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Ms Keegan said: “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.”

But opposition MPs said the measures amounted to a “cap on aspiration” that will restrict choice for young people.

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Universities face cap on number of students taking 'rip-off' degrees
Gillian Keegan

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “This is simply an attack on the aspirations of young people and their families by a government that wants to reinforce the class ceiling, not smash it.

“The Conservatives’ appalling record on apprenticeships means it can’t be trusted to deliver the overhaul that our young people need, and (the) new role for the Office for Students will be to put up fresh barriers to opportunity in areas with fewer graduate jobs.

“Labour will enable our young people to seize the opportunities of the future through our reforms of the skills system and higher education funding – your background will be no barrier to getting on under a Labour government.”

Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrats’ education spokesperson, said: “Rishi Sunak is so out of ideas that he’s dug up a new version of a policy the Conservatives have announced and then unannounced twice over.

“Universities don’t want this. It’s a cap on aspiration, making it harder for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to go on to further study.”

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