Concerns over ‘low-quality’ UK degrees rise: What this means for international students

The UK Department of Education has said that it would shortly direct the Office for Students (OFS) to limit recruiting for university programmes that do not consistently result in excellent student results.


Surat : In a move that will have far-reaching consequences for both domestic and overseas students, the UK government, led by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, has proposed tough measures to combat what it calls ‘rip-off degrees.’ These courses are notable for their poor value for money, high student attrition rates, limited graduate career opportunities, and hefty student debt loads.

The UK Department of Education has said that it would shortly direct the Office for Students (OFS) to limit recruiting for university programmes that do not consistently result in excellent student results. In order to maintain educational quality and secure a fair return on investment for taxpayers, the government is increasing penalties for courses that fail to produce well-paid graduates or even retain their students until the end.

“The majority of UK universities are globally renowned, yet a select few courses on offer are contributing to graduates burdened with debt, facing uncertain career prospects, and underwhelming earnings,” the Education Department said in a statement, calling for a balanced system for both students and taxpayers, who, it pointed out, bear hefty portions of unreturned tuition fees due to low graduate salaries.

Graduates Experience Pervasive Underemployment

According to OFS data, about 30% of graduates are not engaged in high-skilled job or additional education a year and three months after graduation. Similarly, The Institute for Fiscal Studies discovered that one in every five graduates would have been better off financially if they had skipped university.

Tuition Fee Cuts Are on the Way

Along with these changes, the UK government intends to reduce fees for classroom-based foundation year courses to £5,760, a considerable reduction from the current yearly cost of £9,250. These preparatory programmes are designed to prepare students for challenging degree programmes that need certain admission criteria or expertise, particularly in disciplines such as medicine and veterinary sciences. The government, on the other hand, claims that an overwhelming number of students are being recommended to study foundation years in topics like as commerce, which may be unnecessary.

International Students Could Face Difficulties

This move may provide difficulties for overseas students, especially those from India, who want to study in the UK but whose courses do not meet the government’s newly specified requirements. In 2022, rumours arose indicating that the UK government intended to put visa restrictions on overseas students who choose ‘low-quality’ degrees, as well as limit the number of dependents they could bring with them. Students, with the exception of those enrolled in research-led master’s or Ph.D. programmes, will not be permitted to bring dependents to the UK beginning in January 2024.

The Industry Reacts

Raghwa Gopal, CEO of M Square Media (MSM), a worldwide pioneer in international education, expressed cautious optimism in the wake of the announcement. “While it’s critical to ensure quality control and protect students from potentially harmful educational investments,” Gopal said, “it’s also critical to consider the diverse needs and circumstances of international students.”

Gopal expressed worry about the potential consequences for Indian students and other overseas academics who may have particular requirements or unique circumstances that are not addressed by the new laws.

“Any educational policy change must take into account the entire student experience.” “A one-size-fits-all approach may not always produce the best results,” he said.

However, Gopal is optimistic that these tough rules will ultimately lead to a more robust, outcome-focused education system in the UK.

“If implemented correctly, these changes have the potential to drive a much-needed shift towards more outcome-driven education.” However, we must ensure that the transition is seamless and that the possible effect on foreign students, who greatly contribute to the cultural and intellectual vitality of UK institutions, is taken into account,” he added.