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Contents

  • Executive summary
  • Section 1 Context
  • Section 2 Proposals
  • Section 3 Next steps
  • Section 4 Deadlines and timescales
  • Annexes
    • Annex A Summary of research and development undertaken
    • Annex B Public information about higher education: summary analysis of consultation responses
    • Annex C Provisional coverage of NSS and DLHE data at JACS level 1 with two-year aggregation for English HEIs
    • Annex D List of abbreviations

Foreword

Those of us who are privileged to work in higher education, in all its rich diversity, have an obligation to support prospective students in making the best decisions for them – we all want students to fulfil their potential and become well-rounded graduates who will make a strong contribution to our society and economy. Decisions about what and where to study have the potential to be life changing, so accurate, relevant and accessible information is key, even more so now that decisions will have a greater financial impact on individuals and families than ever before.

The wide engagement in the consultation on public information about higher education highlights the importance of providing straightforward access to good, relevant information in places that prospective students look for it. This agenda is only going to grow in importance and I am committed to working with the sector, with government and with student representatives to ensure that our future students have what they need to make the right decisions for them. The establishment of Key Information Sets (KISs) is an important step and part of our vital commitment in this area.

While I acknowledge that this initiative will require commitment from institutions, the outcome will be a positive step for both the sector and for prospective students and their advisers. We now need to turn our attention to the smooth implementation of the KIS for September 2012 and I urge the sector, therefore, to receive this 'next steps' publication and await the technical guidance due in September 2011.

I am also pleased that consultation respondents engaged so positively with the information institutions will be making available for quality assurance purposes, as well as with the enhancements to the National Student Survey. These are important areas of work and I look forward to future developments.

As Chair of the Higher Education Public Information Steering Group I am committed to enhancing the provision of information about higher education for prospective students and other users. I look forward to continuing our constructive dialogue on these important issues in the future.

Janet Beer
Chair, Higher Education Public Information Steering Group
Vice-Chancellor, Oxford Brookes University


Executive summary

Purpose

1. This is a joint publication by HEFCE1, Universities UK (UUK) and GuildHE2, setting out how it is intended to improve the accessibility and usefulness of information about higher education (HE). It includes requirements for the information that universities and colleges should publish about their HE courses. These requirements are based on extensive consultation and research with prospective students, current students, universities, colleges and other interested parties.

Key points

2. In November 2010, we published 'Public information about higher education: Consultation on changes to information published by institutions' (HEFCE 2010/31), setting out proposals to improve the information published by all higher and further education institutions in England that are subject to review by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA)3. The consultation was developed by HEFCE, UUK and GuildHE with oversight from the Higher Education Public Information Steering Group (HEPISG)4, and input from the Quality in Higher Education Group5. The National Union of Students, Association of Colleges, the QAA and representatives of employer-related organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills all contributed to discussions.

3. In parallel to the consultation, HEFCE, UUK and GuildHE ran further user research, consulted expert groups and undertook pilots. We are very grateful to all who have helped us with this work.

4. The consultation proposals were generally well received and, following consideration of the outcomes and next steps by HEPISG, the Boards of HEFCE and UUK, and the GuildHE Executive we now set out in this document what information should be published and where. (The publication also incorporates outcomes from the parallel development work.)

5. At the time of publication, these requirements apply to all publicly funded HEIs, FECs with undergraduate provision, and private providers who subscribe to the QAA.

6. Universities and colleges should publish Key Information Sets (KISs) for undergraduate courses, whether full- or part-time. These KISs will contain information on student satisfaction, graduate outcomes, learning and teaching activities, assessment methods, tuition fees and student finance, accommodation and professional accreditation.

7. HEFCE will collate the KISs in the first year, based on information contained in the National Student Survey (NSS)6, the Destinations of Leavers from HE (DLHE) survey7, and returns submitted by universities and colleges. Universities and colleges will then publish KISs on their web-sites by the end of September 2012. HEFCE will publish further detailed technical guidance as soon as possible and no later than the end of September 2011. The likelihood is that after September 2012, KIS collation will pass to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

8. All publicly funded HEIs, further education colleges with undergraduate provision, and private providers who subscribe to the QAA should also publish a wider information set. This document sets out what information should be made available externally and internally as part of that wider information set, whether freely or on demand.

9. From the academic year 2012-13, QAA institutional review teams will form a judgement on the provision of information by universities and colleges in England and Northern Ireland. QAA will provide further details in an updated version of the institutional review handbook, to be published in January 2012. We anticipate that a similar judgement will be included in the revised method for reviewing HE in further education colleges, also from 2012-13.

10. There are further details of the research and development process underpinning this document in Annex A. Annex B contains a summary of the consultation responses. Full reports of both the research and the consultation responses are available.

11. The next steps in this document relate only to higher education in England. Institutions in Northern Ireland took part in the consultation, and the Department for Employment and Learning (in Northern Ireland) expects to issue its own 'next steps' information in summer 2011. Institutions in Wales were consulted by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) in 'Key Information Sets' (Circular W11/15HE), and HEFCW will also issue its own 'next steps' information imminently. The Scottish Funding Council is currently considering these issues in the context of updating its quality arrangements, including public information.

Action required

12. No immediate action is required but institutions will need to take steps to ensure they comply with these outcomes.

13. Institutions will be required to submit data to HEFCE for inclusion in the KIS. Institutions who subscribe to the QAA but who do not currently take part in the NSS and DLHE should take steps to do so.

14. All KISs should be made available via institutional web-sites by the end of September 2012.

15. In addition, the wider information set should be in place by September 2012.


Notes

  1. HEFCE distributes public money for higher education in England and has statutory responsibility for quality assessment. For more information see www.hefce.ac.uk.
  2. UUK and GuildHE are representative bodies for higher education institutions in the UK.
  3. HEFCE operates its statutory responsibilities for quality assessment through contracting with the QAA. The QAA is responsible for safeguarding quality and standards in UK higher education, checking how well universities and colleges meet their responsibilities and suggesting ways they could improve. Institutions pay a subscription to QAA to help fund its work.
  4. HEPISG advises the UK funding bodies, and other relevant bodies sponsoring and implementing cross-sector projects on the provision of information about higher education, on the management and ongoing development of this activity. HEPISG's membership and terms of reference can be seen on the HEFCE web-site.
  5. The Quality in Higher Education Group includes students, and representatives from higher education institutions, a further education college, a secondary school, the Royal Academy of Engineering, QAA and the Higher Education Academy. For more information on the group, its membership and terms of reference, see the Universities UK web-site.
  6. The National Student Survey asks final-year students about their course and the institution at which they studied. The survey results are published each year on the Unistats web-site.
  7. For more information on the Destinations of Leavers from HE survey see the HESA web-site.

Date: 1 June 2011

Ref: HEFCE 2011/18

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Student union officers and student representatives, Staff responsible for quality assurance, Staff responsible for admissions, liaison with schools and colleges, widening participation and marketing, Funding councils and institutional representative bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Other bodies with an interest in quality assurance of higher education, including employer bodies and professional, statutory and regulatory bodies, Other bodies and individuals with an interest in providing information, advice and guidance to prospective higher education students, including careers advisers, schools, sixth form colleges and their representative bodies

Enquiries should be directed to:

Hannah Pudner at HEFCE, tel 0117 931 7453, e-mail h.pudner@hefce.ac.uk

Fiona Hoban at Universities UK, tel 020 7419 5484, e-mail fiona.hoban@universitiesuk.ac.uk

Helen Bowles at GuildHE, tel 020 7387 7711, e-mail helen.bowles@guildhe.ac.uk