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UK universities offer less value for money, says audit

While the British report focuses on UK and EU students, most Indian students return satisfied with their courses, but complaints about courses offering less than expected value are not unknown.

world Updated: Dec 08, 2017 22:03 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
UK universities,National Audit Office (NAO),Indian students in UK
File photo of people walking around Oxford University's campus in England. (AP)

Universities in the United Kingdom continue to attract thousands of students from India and elsewhere, but a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on Friday revealed that many students believe their courses do not offer value for money or offerpoor value.

In the context of higher education increasingly seen as a market and students as consumers, the NAO said if universities were seen as banks, mis-selling and lack of consumer satisfaction would be an issue.

While the NAO report focuses on UK and EU students, most Indian students return satisfied with their courses, but complaints about courses being less challenging or offeringless than expected value are not unknown.

UK universities have faced deep funding cuts since 2010, leading to closure of several departments, staff retrenchment and dwindling funds for research. This makes recruitment of Indian and other international students crucial, since they typically pay more than three times the fees applicable to UK and EU students.

The NAO report said only 32% of students from England consider their courses offer value for money, down from 50% in 2012. This figure is the lowest in the UK. Furthermore, 37% of students from England considered their course offeredpoor value.

NAO head Amyas Morse said: “We are deliberately thinking of higher education as a market, and as a market, it has a number of points of failure. Young people are taking out substantial loans to pay for courses without much effective help and advice, and the institutions concerned are under very little competitive pressure to provide best value.

“If this was a regulated financial market we would be raising the question of mis-selling. The Department is taking action to address some of these issues, but there is a lot that remains to be done.”

The report said: “Higher education has a more limited level of consumer protection than other complex products such as financial services.”

The number of Indian students coming to the UK has fallen by 50% since 2010, but recent figures showed an increasing trend. British ministers and officials have been keen to invite more Indian and other international students, insisting that there is no cap on their numbers.

First Published: Dec 08, 2017 21:36 IST