Written by Alyssa Walker

A new study from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) suggests that British teens have a tough time making choices about universities based on too little information.

The report explains that the teens have "insufficient and inconsistent career advice," and says that students have "limited redress" if they're unhappy with the quality of courses they receive. 

According to an article on BBC.com, the report says, "The substantial financial commitment required and wide variation in outcomes from higher education mean prospective students need high-quality advice and support to make decisions that are right for them.

"The complexity of the market and the volume of information available makes it difficult for prospective students, most of whom are teenagers, to assess the quality and suitability of higher education institutions."

The report cites five conclusions. First, the Department for Education (DfE) treats higher education as a market sector, but with little regard for students or taxpayers. Secondly, it explains that UK youth don't have the proper support in making higher education or career decisions. Thirdly, students have "limited means of redress" if they're dissatisfied with the quality of their course, even if they drop out. Fourthly, the DfE doesn't have a good sense of what it needs to do to widen participation in higher education. Finally, the new Office for Students hasn't outlined a plan that will meet the interests and needs of students in the UK. 

PAC committee chair Meg HIllier said, "Much rides on the ability of the new Office for Students to function as an effective regulator and, as a priority, we expect it to set out in detail exactly how it will approach the task of safeguarding students' interests."

The new Office for Students chief executive Nicola Dandridge said, "The committee is right to highlight the difficulties that prospective students can face in deciding what and where to study. Improving the quality of information, advice, and guidance for students is a priority for us.

"Our process for ensuring that all registered higher education providers meet challenging standards of quality and student protection will ensure a common threshold."

The National Union of Students' opinion? NUS vice-president Amatey Doku said, "There is a real danger that channelling information, advice and guidance along the lines of salary calculators will narrow the focus of higher education too much to merely a transaction in return for a job - this does not capture the full experience that a student gains from higher education."


Learn more about studying in the UK.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.
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