Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence


  This note sets out responses to the further questions contained in the letter of 24 January 2001 from Robert Rees, on behalf of the Sub-Committee, to John Randall, Chief Executive of the Agency.


  Some of the further questions from the Sub-Committee address matters of fact, rather than matters of policy or opinion. As far as possible, such questions are answered by reference to the evidence available to the Agency from its programmes of reviews of subject provision and of whole institutions.

  Annex 4 to the further memorandum submitted to the Sub-Committee by the Agency pointed out that the reporting categories used hitherto by the Agency in its subject reviews do not identify progression and retention issues separately (although the Agency's new method of review will report separately on student progression). Also, the Agency's reviews are of programmes in a subject area, or of whole institutions, not of the performance of individual students. Accordingly, where a question seeks a factual answer, and this cannot be given on the basis of evidence from reviews, that is made clear.


1.   Does institutional scale affect non-completion rates? For example, are smaller institutions better able to address the needs of students who are at risk of not completing their studies?

  The Sub-Committee is referred to the data published by HEFCE, on behalf of the higher education funding bodies in all parts of the UK. The Report Performance indicators in higher education in the UK, 1997-98, 1998-99 (October 2000) lists non-continuation data for all institutions, and gives the size of the entry cohort. Any correlation between scale and non-completion rates could be established from the tables in the report.

2.   Are there structural or policy barriers which stop higher education institutions from addressing causes of non-completion?

  None of which the Agency is aware.


3.   Do you think that the new framework for higher education qualifications will provide opportunities to reduce the "stigma" for students who choose to leave before they have completed an honours degree?



4.   Does institutional collaboration help to reduce non-completion? For example, franchising arrangements such as FE/HE links.

  The Agency does not have statistical evidence available from its reviews to answer this question one way or the other. However, the Agency's evidence highlighted the need for students to have good information about the nature of the programmes on which they are considering enrolling. There are examples of articulation arrangements between FE colleges and universities, that enable a student to proceed from (for example) an HND to an advanced stage of an honours degree programme. Where the two programmes have been designed with the needs of such students in mind, the student is likely to be well informed about the nature and demands of the university programme, and to have been prepared for progression to it. Carefully designed articulation arrangements may well help achieve a high rate of completion of the university stage of study.

5.   Is there experience in the further education sector that higher education can draw on to reduce non-completion rates?

  The Agency does not have direct evidence on which to base an answer to this question.


6.   Your written submission noted that HEIs should do their utmost to ensure that prospective students are aware of information on the general nature of higher education programmes and about the specific characteristics of each individual programme (para 17, HE 110). From the evidence of your reviews, are institutions doing enough to make sure that students receive this information?

  Evidence is not gathered specifically on this issue through the current review method. However, the overall impression of reviewers is that institutions are generally conscientious in providing information to students. The expectation that institutions will, in future, produce programme specifications will ensure that good quality information is available about individual programmes, and in a manner that will assist students in making comparisons between different providers. The publication by the Agency, of benchmark statements last year, of the qualifications framework this month, and of further benchmark statements later this year, will increase the amount of information available to prospective students about the general nature of higher education programmes. This information is available to the general public via the Agency's website, and can be used by HEIs in their own provision of information.

7.   Do students who enter through clearing receive sufficient information about the offers they accept to make appropriate judgements?

  The Agency does not have direct evidence on which to base an answer to this question.

8.   Are higher education institutions taking sufficient care in assessing applications from students who have limited information about the course they are applying to?

  The Agency does not have direct evidence on which to base an answer to this question.

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
January 2001

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 19 February 2001