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Competition lacking in English higher education market

Audit shows less than a third of students think their course offers value for money

The National Audit Office has identified a number of ‘points of failure’ in the higher education system in a new report into how the sector is operating as a market.

The report says that up front government funding for higher education in England has risen from £6 billion to £9 billion over the past decade. Most of this is delivered directly through students in the form of tuition fee loans.

However, just 32% of students think that their course is value for money. The NAO says there is ‘no meaningful price competition’ among higher education providers and points out that it is difficult for students to switch providers or influence the quality of a course once they have started it. This leaves little incentive to compete for students through course quality.

‘If this was a regulated financial market we would be raising the question of mis-selling,’ said the NAO’s head Amyas Morse in a statement. The NAO called on the government to introduce tougher regulations on quality and for better information to be made available to help prospective students make decisions about where to study.