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Ofsted: Colleges must ‘recruit with integrity’

Ofsted’s new framework for FE and skills not about limiting student choice, the inspectorate’s deputy director insists

Ofsted's deputy director for FE and skills Paul Joyce says colleges must recruit with integrity and not offer false hope

Ofsted’s new framework for FE and skills not about limiting student choice, the inspectorate’s deputy director insists

When considering their curriculum, colleges need to “recruit with integrity” and not just think about “bums on seats”, Ofsted’s deputy director for FE and skills has said.

Speaking to the Association of College’s Eastern Governors Conference in Bury St Edmunds on Thursday, Paul Joyce said inspectors would look at colleges' “curriculum intent” and the “integrity” of the recruitment process, but the new approach was not a means to limit student choice.

At the Association of Colleges' annual conference in Birmingham in November, HM chief inspector Amanda Spielman told delegates that it was “unacceptable” to offer a large number of student places where there are poor job prospects, and in doing so “offer false hope”. She singled out art and design courses in particular as having the “greatest mismatch” between the numbers of students taking the courses and their future employment in the industry.

Asked by a college governor how the inspectorate would view destination data for a student who progressed to a job or course different from the subject they studied, Mr Joyce said it was about looking at progressing to a “positive destination” and about making sure students were not misled during the recruitment process.

'Intent and integrity'

He added: “What’s important to us and to the learner is where have they progressed to, have they progressed to where they wanted to and what part has the curriculum and the provision you offered played within that. With art and design, or hairdressing, for example, a lot of the skills that are developed are transferable skills.”

Mr Joyce said inspectors would scrutinise courses where there were high numbers of students and where destination data showed they did not go on to employment or further learning.

“I’m particularly in interested in your rationale as a provider for wanting to recruit that many and for the integrity of your recruitment. Because if, for example, heaven forbid what you’re doing is putting bums on seats to get funding – and to do so your marketing literature is misleading or selling false hope – then that is where I am going to question your curriculum intent and indeed the integrity of your recruitment process.”

'Not about limiting student choice'

Asked if this could potentially limit courses' choices for students who wanted to pursue a particular path, Mr Joyce insisted it would not.

“What we are not proposing is [where] we say ‘there are 50 hairdressers required in this locality and therefore you recruit 50.’ Student choice is very, very important – it is a motivational factor.

“If a student wants to go into hairdressing art and design, or whatever course they may want to go into and the careers advice and guidance that the college provides is absolutely clear about the prospects and what the course will do, about the skills they will get and they still want to do that then it is absolutely right. This is just about making sure that colleges and providers are recruiting with integrity. This is not about limiting student choice.”

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