Ofsted is going to start inspecting universities

The move will give Ofsted the power to inspect all levels of apprenticeships.

Ofsted is going to start inspecting universities

On 1st April 2021, Ofsted will be given the power to inspect all universities that offer apprenticeships.

Up until now, Ofsted has only been responsible for quality assurance in apprenticeships up to level 5, while the Office for Students has inspected all degree apprenticeships – levels 6 and 7.

Ofsted have been campaigning to inspect apprenticeship delivery across the board for over 4 years. Currently, over 50 UK universities deliver degree apprenticeships, including many prominent Russel Group universities like the University of Manchester, University of Warwick and the University of Cambridge.

What’s the reason behind the change?

Traditionally, universities have been inspected in a completely different way to other education providers. They have their own quality standards and assessment procedures, so when degree apprenticeships were introduced, they just followed suit.

There were concerns in the sector that the Office for Students wasn’t regulating degree apprenticeships in the same way that Ofsted was inspecting the lower levels. So the Department for Education has decided to bring all apprenticeships into Ofsted’s remit to improve consistency across the board.

The pros

It makes sense for all apprenticeships to be quality assured in the same way, so learners at all levels benefit from high-quality training.

Ofsted is also likely to cast a closer look at degree apprenticeships to make sure they're not graduate schemes repackaged as apprenticeships. Companies have always had to pay for graduate schemes, so this move should protect government and levy funding and make sure apprenticeship funding is being spent on genuine and necessary apprenticeship training. This is a positive move in principle, but may prove problematic for some employers and universities.

The cons

There has been some concern around Ofsted's expertise to inspect degree-level fields – such as nursing or architecture. This may mean that Ofsted will need to hire specialist inspectors to assure some degree-level programmes.

What do universities think about being inspected by Ofsted?

Most universities are open to Ofsted becoming their new quality assurance partner. It may mean a few changes in delivery and quality measures, but universities are open to change in the best interest of their students.

The University of Cambridge said, “We welcome scrutiny from relevant bodies. We will necessarily adjust to meet the requirements in the best interests of our student apprentices and their employers.”

The move from Office for Students to Ofsted is set for 1st April 2021.

Quality assurance is a major part of apprenticeship delivery, so this will be a big change for HEIs. To find out more about Ofsted inspections and how you can use OneFile to maintain quality assurance, download your free Ofsted guidance pack.

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