The National Audit Office has today published the findings from its investigation into the arrangements for oversight and funding of alternative higher education providers. The report examines in particular concerns relating to the financial support provided to students attending some of these providers.
The key findings of the investigation are as follows:
- EU students at some alternative providers have claimed or attempted to claim student support they were not entitled to.
- Dropout rates at 9 alternative providers were higher than 20% in 2012/13. By comparison, the average dropout rate across the higher education sector is 4%, but no-one has defined what might be an acceptable dropout rate when students are benefiting from public support.
- 20% of Higher National students recruited by alternative providers and claiming student support may not have been registered with the qualification awarding body in 2012/13.
- Between 2012 and 2014, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) suspended payments to 7 providers and their students owing to concerns that providers had enrolled students on to unapproved courses. Furthermore, a lack of clarity has existed within BIS and its partner organisations about which courses were approved for student support.
- In 3 cases, BIS suspended student support payments to providers or their students where it had concerns that the providers had supplied incorrect information about student attendance.
These issues were brought to the National Audit Office’s attention by a number of parties and by BIS, which has conducted its own investigations into alternative providers. Concerns have also been raised in Parliament and in the media about some alternative higher education providers.