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In a move that has significant implications for both home and international students, the UK government, under its new Chancellor has announced firm measures against what it labels rip-off degrees. These courses are characterized by their lack of value for money, high student attrition rates, poor graduate job prospects, significant student debt burdens and high ROI for Gujju like Edu traders!

The Department of Education has indicated that it will soon instruct the Office for Students (OFS) to restrict recruitment for university courses that do not reliably lead to positive student outcomes. In a bid to uphold educational quality and ensure a fair return on investment for taxpayers, the government is stepping up measures against courses that fall short in producing well-paid graduates or even keeping their enrollees to the end.

“The majority of UK universities are globally renowned, yet a select few courses on offer are contributing to graduates burdened with debt, facing uncertain career prospects, and underwhelming earnings,” the Education Department’s statement read, calling for a balanced system for both students and taxpayers who, as it pointed out, shoulder hefty portions of unreturned tuition fees due to low graduate salaries.

Pervasive Underemployment Among Graduates

Data from the OFS show that almost 30% of graduates are not engaged in high-skilled work or further study a year and three months post-graduation. Likewise, a study conducted by The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that one in five graduates would have been financially better off if they had bypassed university education.

Tuition Fee Reductions in the Offing

Alongside these moves, the government plans to slash fees for classroom-based foundation year courses to £5,760, a significant drop from the current £9,250 annual cost. These preliminary programs are devised to equip students for rigorous degree courses that necessitate specific entry prerequisites or knowledge, especially in fields like medicine and veterinary sciences. However, the government argues that an excessive number of students are being advised to pursue a foundation year in subjects such as business, which may be superfluous.

Potential Hurdles for International Students

This decision could prove problematic for international students, including those from India, seeking to study in the UK but whose chosen courses might not align with the government’s newly defined standards. In 2022, reports surfaced suggesting the UK government’s intent to impose visa restrictions on international students who opt for ‘low-quality’ courses and to limit the number of dependents they can bring. With the exception of those engaged in research-led master’s or Ph.D. courses, students will not be allowed to bring dependents to the UK from January 2024 onwards.

Industry Reacts

Raghwa Gopal, CEO of M Square Media (MSM), a global leader in international education, responded to the news with cautious optimism. “While it’s crucial to ensure quality control and protect students from potentially disadvantageous educational investments, it’s equally important to consider the diverse needs and circumstances of international students,” Gopal said.

Gopal voiced his concerns over the possible ramifications for Indian students and other international scholars who may have specific needs or unique situations not considered under these new regulations.

“It’s vital for any educational policy change to consider the holistic student experience. A one-size-fits-all approach may not always yield the best outcomes,” he warned.

However, Gopal remains hopeful that these policies, though stringent, could eventually lead to a more robust, outcome-focused education sector in the UK.

“Done right, these changes could drive a much-needed shift towards more outcome-driven education. But we need to ensure the transition is smooth and considers the potential impact on international students, who significantly contribute to the cultural and academic vibrancy of UK universities,” he concluded.

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