Minister backs ‘GoCompare’-style apps to help students choose university

The universities minister has backed digital tools that create a “GoCompare” for students and may lead to the end of poor value courses.

Sam Gyimah said the current system of selecting a university did not allow students to make informed decisions about which course would deliver the best outcome for them.

Speaking on Thursday, he said it was not simply about how much they earn after graduating, but how good the course was.

Mr Gyimah said: “There is no point in having students go on to courses that are not right for them and that don’t deliver value when they are making a considerable investment in their education.

“What we don’t have in the market at the moment is reliable information that is personalised and tailored to the student for them to make that right decision for themselves.

“Where you have threadbare, low quality courses, where compared to the same course at other universities that are delivering better value, you will find students not choosing that course and I think that is the right thing to happen.

“If you are offering a good quality course, then students will choose it because the information will be available to them.”

Mr Gyimah was talking at Imperial College London after seeing five prototype apps and websites aimed at asking the prospective student to enter certain criteria in order to show them the range of course or career options open to them.

Some of the apps were able to show what a graduate’s potential salary could be based on different course options, while another calculated how much they could expect to spend on student accommodation.

It is also hoped the new technology could level the playing field for the most disadvantaged students, who otherwise might not have the information available to them.

Earlier this year Mr Gyimah launched a £125,000 competition for companies to develop the tools.

At the event on Thursday the minister unveiled the five finalists, announcing that two of them would receive up to £150,000 each towards developing their final product.

Asked if it was a warning for universities to make sure their courses were up to scratch, he said: “Of course.

“I want this to be a wake-up call for every university as well that students are going to have more information – better information – to make decisions about their courses, so every course has got to be the best possible course, not just because it can recruit people.”

Mr Gyimah added: “What we want is a GoCompare for students.

“That would have benefited me and I think what we have seen here gets us to a point where we can have a proper GoCompare for students to transform the landscape of choice for them.”