Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE)
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Providing information that helps students make the right higher education choices
Schools, colleges, universities, student unions and a wide range of other bodies are being asked to comment on the information that higher education (HE) providers publish to help prospective students choose the course and institution that are best for them.
They are invited to respond to a consultation being conducted by HEFCE, Universities UK and GuildHE. The consultation mainly concerns a proposed Key Information Set (KIS) which all publicly funded HE providers in England and Northern Ireland would be required to publish for each course on their web-sites.
The consultation, 'Public information about higher education: Consultation on changes to information published by institutions' (HEFCE 2010/31), is published online.
Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:
'We hope for a vigorous response to this consultation which will inform the way higher and further education institutions provide access to robust, reliable, comparable information about their courses. In future prospective students will be making decisions about where to apply in the knowledge that they will pay more for their education. It is essential that they have access to the best possible information – and receive proper advice and guidance about their choices.'
Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts, said:
'Improving information for prospective students is a priority for the government, and will form a key part of our future plans for higher education. Students must have access to timely and comparable information so they can make informed decisions about where and what to study. HEFCE's proposals are a significant step forward and I look forward to seeing this information available for students.'
The consultation is informed by the results of research commissioned by HEFCE, and undertaken by Oakleigh Consulting and Staffordshire University, which identified the information current and prospective students identified as 'very useful'. This mostly relates to costs, satisfaction and employability. Information about the fees for each course will also be included.
The intention is that information will be presented in a standardised format on each university and college web-site, looking similar for all courses at all institutions, thus making the information potentially more useful, comparable and accessible. Discussions are also taking place about how the information can be linked to the UCAS web-site.
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) will review the information published by higher education providers about their higher education provision. As previously agreed, it will be subject to a judgement in QAA review from the 2012-13 academic year onwards.
This consultation was developed by HEFCE, UUK and GuildHE with advice and guidance from the Higher Education Public Information Steering Group (HEPISG), the Quality in Higher Education Group and QAA. The National Union of Students, Association of Colleges and representatives of employer-related organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills were included in discussions on its development.
The outcomes of the consultation and the way forward will be agreed at Board level by HEFCE and UUK and at the GuildHE Executive. They will be published as early as possible in summer 2011 so that universities and colleges can start to develop their information sets.
It is proposed that the deadline for publishing KISs should be the start of academic year 2012-13 to help inform entrants in 2013, although publication will be encouraged at the earliest possible date.
At the same time as this consultation, the development of the KIS proposals will be discussed with expert working groups, and pilot schemes will be run in a sample of institutions. This is intended to help respondents give informed consideration to the KIS proposals, and to provide further information about the resources needed to develop them.
Updates on this work will be shared via a dedicated page on the HEFCE web-site and at two consultation events on 18 February in London and 3 March in Birmingham.