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Hotly-debated HE bill may make it easier for students to switch courses or universities

Choosing the right university or course is a stressful process, and sometimes, later down the road, we realize that perhaps what we chose was not quite the right fit for us.

So, what can you do about it?

According to The Guardian, students at UK higher education institutions may soon find it easier to change their course or university, thanks to the Higher Education and Research bill.

One part of the highly-controversial bill, which is currently being mulled over by parliament, aims to help students who are unhappy with their courses or institution, as well as to encourage student mobility and competition among institutions.

Currently, students are allowed to change their university, but it involves a long, complicated process where students must contact their university of choice or apply through UCAS. They must also inform the Student Loans Company so that their tuition payments can be transferred to the new institution.

In the latest figures shared by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, less than 7,000 students changed to another university in 2013-14 out of around 400,000 UK undergraduates.

The government recently published a “call for evidence” report assessing how often students change their university or course, as well as looking into whether it would be a good idea to make the process more straightforward.

The call for evidence stated: “Students who are concerned they are not receiving value for money may decide ultimately to switch to a provider that better fits their needs.”

Admissions officers have also suggested that students often decide to change their university or course due to personal reasons, such as those who need to move back home to save money or even to look after a relative.

Bulgarian student Hristina Davidova, 20, shared with The Guardian why she made the switch. According to Davidova, she was unhappy with her course in events management at the University of West London and was looking for more exams and intensive teaching.

She finally chose to change to business with human resources at Middlesex University and was pleased with the move, adding: “I have more friends now, I have first-class marks in everything, and I’m involved in the student union.”

Experts have also weighed in: Emran Mian, a former director of strategy at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said that he expected the practice of switching universities to become more common, particularly in urban areas with a higher density of nearby alternatives, which students may find convenient so they won’t have to uproot their lives in terms of accommodation, part-time jobs, or social circle.

He added that with the removal of the student admissions cap, institutions could now increase their student intake, and it would be less risky for universities to take on students who have already gone through their first year.

“This is also in a context where some universities will see a lot of pressure on international student numbers in the context of Brexit, and will be thinking about where to get extra growth and whether that will come from a neighboring university,” said Mian.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), said that making it easier to change was “probably a good thing”, especially if it meant fewer students dropping out of university altogether.

However, some suggested that a focus on getting students to make the right choice in the first place was probably better.

Janet Graham, director of Supporting Professionalism in Admissions, said that for the most part, students would prefer to stay at their chosen university, which was why she would like to see more emphasis on guiding students in the selection process.

“My personal view is that if you have committed to a particular course, unless something dramatic happens in your personal circumstances, you usually want to complete, because change is quite an upheaval,” she explained.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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