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.
Each course will have its own KIS containing information on:
An example of a KIS is available on the HEFCE web-site.
'Provision of information about higher education: Outcomes of consultation and next steps' (HEFCE 2011/18) is informed by:
Full details are available on the HEFCE web-site.