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Universities must prioritise students over their research interests, new regulator says

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Research in universities must not eclipse students’ interests, the head of a new higher education watchdog has said.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students (OfS) said that while research is essential, it must not be pursued at the expense of students.

Her warning comes amid a growing debate over university funding, with ministers and campaigners calling on higher education institutions to prove they offer students value for money. 

“As a regulator, we are very clear that we will be transparent and evidence-led, and will work constructively and respectfully with providers, collaborating with them where there are common objectives,” Ms Dandridge said.

Ms Dandridge also announced plans to create a student panel to help inform the regulator’s work.

“One of the roles that the panel will play is working out how the OfS can ensure that its work properly involves students, including those whose backgrounds or circumstances may make it harder – for instance students with disabilities, mature students studying remotely, postgraduates, or international students,” she said.

Qualifi welcome the work of the OfS stating that the priorities of the new body, which was created by the Universities Minister Jo Johnson as part of an overhaul of the higher education system are welcome and will hopefully encourage and promote the work of alternative providers in further responding to and meeting the needs of learners in offering of value for money, high quality HE qualifications in none University settings.