New investigation thresholds set by the Office for Students

10th November 2022

The Office for Students (OfS) has released new thresholds for student outcomes in higher education in England, which if not met, may result in more investigations by the OfS.

The new minimum threshold expectations relate to registration condition B3 (student outcomes) which accentuate what is expected from education providers. They set out expectations for proportions of students on higher education courses to either continue their course, graduate, and go on to further study or find a professional job. The providers’ individual circumstances and context will be considered by the OfS when determining compliance with condition B3.

For full-time students studying for a first degree, the thresholds are:

  • 80 % to continue their studies
  • 75 % to complete their course
  • 60 % to go on to further study, professional work, or other positive outcomes, within 15 months of graduating.

The new expectations will essentially mean that higher education institutions may be investigated if they or their course provision is performing poorly, which cannot be explained by their context. If there has been a breach of condition B3 the OfS will consider using the full range of its enforcement powers. This could result in sanctions being imposed and may potentially impact on other areas such as the allocation of OfS public grant funding.

In light of the new thresholds coming into place, Susan Lapworth, Chief Executive of the OfS has publicly stated:

...too many students, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, are recruited onto courses with weak outcomes which do not improve their life chances.

Higher education institutions can advance key indicators such as; academic achievement, student retention and graduation rates, and post-graduate employability, by implementing the right support and strategies. Some of the key areas where higher education institutions can make changes to improve student outcomes include:

  • Focus on student attendance
  • Utilising student data and learning analytics
  • Prioritising student wellbeing

The full extent and effect of these thresholds and the kinds of enforcement action that the OfS may take is yet to be seen; however, it does seem that these thresholds could result in the OfS being more ready to act if it considers student outcomes are unjustifiably poor.

Blake Morgan has significant expertise in advising on investigations within the Education sector, including OfS investigations. If you have any questions regarding these new thresholds or are concerned by their possible impact, please get in touch and we shall be pleased to help.

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