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Under new arrangements published jointly today (June 16) by HEFCE, Universities UK and GuildHE, universities and colleges in England will be required to publish a KIS for each undergraduate course they offer (Note 1). The KIS is an online summary of information about: student satisfaction; learning and assessment; financial costs and support; employment outcomes; and professional body recognition (Note 2).

These are the areas that more than 2,000 students and their advisers highlighted as most useful to them in recent research (Note 3). The KIS will present this information in the places people are most likely to look for it: university and college web-sites. The information will be presented in an accessible, standard format which will allow easy comparison between courses, and will provide links to more detailed information.

The KIS was developed after an extensive research and development programme to determine what information students find useful when making choices about higher education. This was accompanied by a joint consultation by HEFCE, Universities UK and GuildHE (Note 4), which gathered more than 200 responses, including from 30 student unions.

Aaron Porter, NUS President, described the KIS as a 'huge step forward', stating:

'NUS strongly supports the idea of pulling together the key pieces of information that students need when making their decision to go to university. It is this course-level information that students have consistently said that they want and so providing a KIS for each course will be huge step forward in ensuring transparency between courses and institutions.'

Today's report, 'Provision of information about higher education: Outcomes of consultation and next steps' (HEFCE 2011/18), summarises the consultation responses and the outcomes of the research and development to date, gives an update on the potential design and development of the KIS, and sets out the next steps.

The KIS reflects a growing recognition of the importance of providing authoritative, accessible information on higher education. From 2012-13 onwards, reviews carried out by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in England and Northern Ireland will include judgements on the information provided by universities and colleges about the higher education they offer. All higher education providers that are subject to review by the Quality Assurance Agency will be expected to meet the new requirements.

Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:

'As the new student finance arrangements are introduced, it will be more important than ever for universities and colleges to provide accurate, up-to-date and easily accessible information to help prospective students choose the course and institution that is best for them. The Key Information Set (KIS) does just that, so I am pleased that the higher education sector and organisations with an interest in this area have responded positively to the consultation that helped to devise the KIS.'

Professor Sir Steve Smith, President of Universities UK, said:

'We are fully committed to transparency and meeting the needs of students. Universities already publish masses of data about student satisfaction and employment outcomes. But prospective students told us that they wanted to find the data more easily. They also wanted to be able to make easy comparisons about other information. We have listened to their views, and will be putting in the work to publish more than 24,000 Key Information Sets next year.' (Note 7)

Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts, said:

'Improving information for prospective students is a priority for the Government, and is a key part of our plans for higher education. We want empowered students to make their study choices based on better, more transparent information. The Key Information Set provides an important first step and I would like to thank HEFCE, UUK and GuildHE for their support for this initiative.'

Professor Ruth Farwell, Vice-Chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University and Chair of GuildHE, said:

'There is a huge range of courses and institutions available to prospective students. I hope that the KIS, and the wider information that accompanies the KIS will help them make an informed choice.'

As well as details of the KIS, 'Provision of information about higher education: Outcomes of consultation and next steps' (HEFCE 2011/18) outlines the wider information about higher education that institutions should also make available to potential students and their advisers. It confirms that a new question will be added to National Student Survey from 2012 onwards asking final year students about satisfaction with their student union.

Notes

  1. The requirement relates to full-time and part-time undergraduate courses for which students will be registered at higher education institutions or private providers who subscribe to the Quality Assurance Agency. Further education colleges with undergraduate provision should also produce KISs. The requirements exclude short courses, closed courses and courses delivered entirely overseas.
  2. Each course will have its own KIS containing information on:

    • student satisfaction with the course (from the National Student Survey)
    • what recent graduates have gone on to do, including the proportion in employment or further study, and average salaries
    • the proportions of time spent on scheduled learning and teaching activities, guided independent study, and work placements/study abroad
    • assessment methods, setting out proportion of written exams, practical exams and course work
    • tuition fees and student finance
    • costs of accommodation
    • professional accreditation of the course
    • student satisfaction with the student union.

    An example of a KIS is available on the HEFCE web-site.

  3. The information considered 'very useful' to current and prospective students was determined in research commissioned by HEFCE, and undertaken by Oakleigh Consulting and Staffordshire University.
  4. The consultation 'Public information about higher education: Consultation on changes to information published by institutions' (HEFCE 2010/31) was developed by HEFCE, Universities UK and GuildHE with advice and guidance from the Higher Education Public Information Steering Group (HEPISG), the Quality in Higher Education Group and the 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.
  5. 'Provision of information about higher education: Outcomes of consultation and next steps' (HEFCE 2011/18) is informed by:

    • the consultation HEFCE 2010/31
    • the Oakleigh/Staffordshire research
    • five expert working groups
    • pilot phase with eight institutions
    • user testing and research on user-centred design by Pure Usability.

    Full details are available on the HEFCE web-site.

  6. The consultation outcomes and next steps publications have been approved by the Boards of HEFCE and UUK, and the GuildHE Executive.
  7. The KIS will be implemented in September 2012 to help inform applicants for September 2013 entry. Technical guidance for institutions will be published in September 2011. English higher education institutions are expected to require around 24,000 KISs, for both full-time and part-time undergraduate courses.