Flexible terms making it easier for students to swap university

When students receive their A-level results and a confirmed university place next month they will be finding out the path their lives will take for at least the next three years. But what if, at the end of their first year – and again at the end of their second – the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) gets in touch again with a friendly email. “Happy with your choice of course and university?” it could ask. “Why not look around for something that suits you better?”

The government has just completed a “call for evidence” [pdf] to find out how much demand there is from students to switch between universities and courses, and whether more could be done to make such flip-flopping easier. It is an unexpected element of the higher education and research bill now going through parliament, and fits into the government’s agenda of increasing competition and student choice, and its desire to encourage social mobility.

Flexible terms making it easier for students to swap university

The call for evidence states: “Students who are concerned they are not receiving value for money may decide ultimately to switch to a provider that better fits their needs.” It cites research from the Sutton Trust [pdf] that shows many students from under-represented groups attend institutions for which they are overqualified. Then there is the suggestion that if courses and institutions close – something envisaged by a more marketised system – students will want to find a replacement.

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