England’s regulator raises concerns about Buckinghamshire New University and the University of Wolverhampton
The Office for Students has raised concerns about business and management courses at both Buckinghamshire New University and the University of Wolverhampton.
Inquiries into the two institutions were conducted as part of a series of investigations by the OfS, which last year raised concerns about business courses at the University of Bedfordshire and the University of Bolton.
At Buckinghamshire New University, England’s regulator highlighted five areas of concern, including that the university was not consistently providing a high-quality academic experience—partly because of “a lack of adequate educational leadership and academic governance”.
The assessment team also concluded that the quality of the virtual learning environment was “not consistent”, that students’ academic support needs were “not consistently identified” and that there was “considerable variability between the pedagogical and teaching skills of different academic staff”.
A spokesperson for Buckinghamshire New University said the institution had not been informed of the “precise reasons” why it had been singled out for investigation, and that this had led it to conduct its own review of its business and management provision.
“Alongside much good practice, our review also found some inconsistencies in teaching delivery and in the provision of electronic resources,” the spokesperson said. “Since then, we have worked hard to make sure these issues were properly addressed.”
The spokesperson said that while OfS assessors had “rightly paid much attention to the National Student Survey” from 2022 as part of the inquiry, the university was “perplexed that the assessors did not consider our results” from the 2023 iteration of the NSS—which showed that “students studying business and management…were extremely positive about the quality of their programmes”.
“We believe [this demonstrates] the success of the actions taken by university staff and its leadership to address the past challenges noted both by the assessors and our own review,” the spokesperson said.
An OfS spokesperson told Research Professional News that its assessment team considered a “wide range of evidence as part of their work”.
“This includes meeting with students and staff and considering a range of other data and information, including from the NSS. The report represents the conclusions of the team as a result of its consideration of information gathered during the course of the assessment to 2 May 2023,” the spokesperson added.
“As part of any future regulatory decision-making, the OfS may take into account any relevant matters which have occurred since the conclusion of the assessment period.”
In a separate report into business and management courses at the University of Wolverhampton, the OfS raised one concern: that some undergraduate students were permitted “a different number of attempts at the same assessments, with no supporting pedagogic rationale”.
“The team…found a lack of underlying pedagogic rationale for allowing up to six attempts to pass an assessment and considered that this brought into question the rigour of the assessment and the level of challenge provided,” the OfS said.
Gill Knight, pro vice-chancellor for academic leadership and student experience at Wolverhampton, said that both before and after the OfS assessment team visited, the university was “reviewing its academic regulations with a view to ensuring they remain both robust and supportive in delivering student outcomes”.
“The review has brought about one recommendation for a change to our reassessment regulations that directly addresses the finding in this report, and this will be considered by our academic board this academic year,” Knight added. “We continue to focus our efforts on providing a high-quality academic experience for our students with courses that are up to date and relevant.”
The OfS says it will now “look closely at the findings” of the assessment teams for both Buckinghamshire New University and Wolverhampton and “consider the next steps in the investigation, which may include considering whether any regulatory action is appropriate”.