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United Kingdom: Transparency tools introduced for comparing courses and graduates

The United Kingdom (UK) has introduced two ‘customer-oriented’ information tools — the Unistats website and the Higher Education Achievement Report — in the past two months. The Unistats website, launched by the Business Secretary, features a standardised Key Information Set (KIS) for 31 000 courses in the UK. Prospective students can now search and compare the listed courses by student satisfaction ratings, graduate salaries and employment, tuition fees and financial support, and cost of accommodation. Similar to the MyUniversity (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, April 2012) platform launched by the Australian Government in April this year, the Unistats website also bears resemblance to review websites of electronic products. They are meant to help students make a well-informed investment decision when choosing from the many.

Along the same line, a transparency tool designed to help employers pick the right graduates called Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) has been officially endorsed by Universities UK and GuildHE for implementation across the higher education sector from autumn 2012. HEAR will not only record in detail the academic achievements of the students, like an academic transcript or diploma supplement does, but also information about their “extra-curricular activities, experiences and responsibilities such as employability skills, work placements and volunteering.” This sophisticated approach to increase the transparency of the students’ formal and informal learning achievements is not readily accepted by all the universities. Universities are not obliged to issue a HEAR report to their graduates at this stage. However, as a result of the tuition fee hikes and the new money-follows-student funding model in the UK higher education, universities will feel the pressure, sooner or later, to provide the kind of customer-based services — what they have been providing to international students — to domestic students also.

Universities in the UK are not unfamiliar with competition and marketization of higher education, as the UK has been exporting higher education worldwide for decades. Nevertheless, the attraction and retention of domestic students requires more than sensational rankings and beautiful campuses. A little bit more information may help.

Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) UniversitiesUK UniStats MyUniversity (Australian Government)