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Education secretary calls for an end to low value degrees

UK Education Secretary Damian Hinds has urged institutions to drop or revamp courses delivering poor value for money

THOUSANDS of students are being let down by universities providing poor value degrees, it has been warned.

UK Education Secretary Damian Hinds has urged institutions to drop or revamp courses delivering poor value for money.

His call follows a Department for Education (DfE) analysis that suggested that on more than one in 10 of all courses there was a 75 per cent chance graduates would not be earning enough five years after leaving university to start repaying student loans.

According to the official graduate outcomes for 2015 to 2016 data, the percentage of courses where the repayment threshold is not met after five years varies from subject to subject.

Graduates must start repaying their loans when they earn £25,000 or over - a threshold that was raised by the Government in April 2018.

Mr Hinds has urged prospective students to use all the data available to them to make sure they choose a course and institution that is right for them.

The DfE analysis identified around 20 providers where at least three quarters of all students were still not earning enough to start repaying their loans five years after graduation.

Mr Hinds said he believed the figures should be a wake-up call for universities about their responsibility to deliver the best outcome for students.

"The opportunity to study at university should be open to anyone with the talent and potential to benefit from higher education," he said.

"With students and taxpayers sharing the cost of higher education it's right that we challenge those institutions which could appear to be more focused on 'getting bums on seats' than getting students into high quality courses worth paying for.

"That's why I want universities to be brave and ask themselves if they're running courses that really help students gain the skills they need for the workforce of tomorrow - if they're not they should improve them or end them.

"But if universities think other options like apprenticeships or technical education are a better fit for a student, they should give young people that advice rather than put them on a course that isn't providing what they need for a bright future."

The DfE said around 45 per cent of the value of outstanding post-2012 student loans were not expected to be repaid, coming at a significant cost to the taxpayer.

Mr Hinds said it was not right that institutions benefited from student loan funded fee income for delivering poor value courses, as students and taxpayers were the ones that suffered.

Meanwhile, Mr Hinds has branded claims of financial hardship among universities as "scaremongering" amid speculation that a review will recommend a cut in tuition fees.

He said "hyperbolic warnings" were misrepresenting the situation facing institutions, most of which had healthy balance sheets.

The minister made the comments after concerns were raised that cutting tuition fees would harm students and even push several universities into bankruptcy.

A review commissioned by Theresa May is reported to be considering whether to reduce the cap to £7,500.

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