OfS Chief Executive, Nicola Dandridge, speaks with LSST students about the future of Higher Education
By Kunal Chan Mehta | Article Date: 29 June 2018
The Office for Students (OfS), established in law by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, acts as regulator for the Higher Education sector and places the student-interest at its heart.
Photo source: Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of OfS
Nicola Dandridge, the first Chief Executive of the OfS, champions the interests of students and helps to ensure that students are receiving a good deal for their investment in Higher Education.
Nicola answers thought-stimulating questions from LSST’s SU and students from LSST London, Luton and Birmingham campuses about why the OfS was set up and how students can benefit from the OfS.
LSST student interviewers: Renata Carvalho, SU President; Angel Terjek, Y2 Business Foundation Degree student, London campus; Camelia Ioo, Y1 FdA Business and Computing student, London campus; Calin Tiron, Y2 HND Computing student, Luton Campus; Malina Badea, Information Technology (Top-up) student, Luton campus; and Latisha Swaby, BA Business Studies (Top-up) student, Birmingham campus. Interview coordinators: Ali Jafar Zaidi, Marketing and Admissions Director, LSST, and Kunal Chan Mehta, LSST’s Senior Lecturer and Press Officer.
1. Why was the OfS set up?
The OfS regulates English higher education providers on behalf of all students. We were set up to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers. This regulation is even more important given that many students are making significant investment in the cost of their higher education through graduate repayments.
2. What challenges is the OfS facing?
We are focussing on four main challenges in all our work. Firstly, we want students from all backgrounds to be able to enter, succeed in and progress from higher education. Second, we want students to have a great teaching, learning and wider educational experience. Third, we want to ensure that this experience gives them the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in employment or further study. And finally, we want to ensure that higher education providers are delivering value for money for students.
3. How does the OfS work with providers to help students make informed decisions?
Helping students make informed decisions about whether to go to university, and if so what and where to study, is a priority for the OfS. There are currently many sources of information available to students, but the evidence suggests that it is not always well targeted and many students end up not feeling that they have been well-advised, and some also consider that they may not have made the best decision. We will therefore be reviewing the information advice and guidance available to students to see whether it can be improved.
Currently the main way we work with providers to help students make informed decisions is through the National Student Survey (NSS), the Unistats website, and the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey. These tools provide a range of data to help those applying for higher education decide what and where to study. We will be looking at these sources, and discussing the position with students and their representatives, and our Student Panel, to work out whether we can do more.
4. How can SUs engage with the OfS to help its central aims?
Our senior leadership team – including our Chair Sir Michael Barber, Director for Access and Participation Chris Millward and myself – have spent time meeting with students and student unions and listening to their concerns. Our Student Panel includes a range of students, many of whom have current or recent experience as student representatives, and we will be working with the Panel and others over the coming months to create a full student engagement strategy which will inform what we do, and how we do it. As part of this we want to consider how we can best engage and work with student unions in the future.
5. How do you work with Universities UK?
We work constructively and respectfully with a range of higher education organisations, including student representative bodies and those – like Universities UK – who represent the higher education sector.
6. How can students support the OfS as volunteers?
We take students’ views on board by appointing a student representative to our main board, having a Student Panel that will recruit new members each year, and seeking input from students’ unions and individual students, for example in the meetings our senior teams have held at universities and colleges around the country. We will also be conducting consultations as our work develops and will be seeking student input into those consultations.
7. How do you promote excellent teaching?
Promoting high quality teaching is one of our four main priorities. When we surveyed students earlier this year as to what they understand by ‘value for money’ they identified high quality teaching as one of the most important considerations.
In terms of individual providers, in order to register with the OfS, they have to satisfy a threshold in terms of quality and standards. We will also regulate at sector level to do what we can to ensure high quality teaching.
In addition, all higher education providers who want to be on our Register must take part in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The TEF assesses quality of teaching and the quality of outcomes for all their students. All providers that receive a TEF award are recognised as meeting rigorous national quality requirements and delivering excellence in addition to these requirements.
8. How can the OfS establish itself as a mature and accountable regulator?
We recognise that we will be scrutinised as we establish ourselves, and we welcome that scrutiny and challenge; I would invite all students to judge us on our actions and the outcomes that we achieve for students!
Find out more about the OfS here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/about/
Follow the OfS here: @officestudents
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LSST students and staff, what are your views on the above interview?