The universities will also be assessed on a wide range of criteria, intended to form a published profile of the character and quality of each institution.
The profile will include information on the nature of the student intake; how students are assessed and what they achieve, including completion rates; the employability of graduates; the quality of staff; where the university spends its money; and how the university is managed.
The announcement yesterday, by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, follows consultation with the universities on how quality should be assessed. Departments are currently given a rating of 'excellent', 'satisfactory' or 'unsatisfactory', but only 60 per cent of these ratings are on the basis of visits by assessors. In Scotland and Wales, assessors already visit all departments.
Meanwhile, Ucas, the admissions agency, says universities would be 'just about full' by the end of the week. The clearing operation, in which universities match people with places, ends this week and the last list of vacancies appears in the Independent today.
Tony Higgins, chief executive of Ucas, said: 'We have placed about 267,000 candidates, and we are pretty close to the figure of 270,000 which we are aiming at.'
He said universities, schools and applicants had all said clearing had gone smoothly, but lessons still had to be learned. 'I think Ucas has to be open for longer hours. At the moment we are open office hours, 9am to 5pm. We should consider whether we should be open between 8am and 6.30pm.'
He advised students still unplaced to keep ringing universities at the beginning of term.
He said not all students who had accepted places would turn up, so there would be occasions when a university would say: 'Come on in.'
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