A bachelor out of place? 1

November 13, 2008

I was interested to read of the proposals for new low-cost "Bachelor of Vocational Studies" degrees to be awarded through a proposed National Skills University ("FE colleges plan low-cost degrees at bachelor level", 6 November).

But as Deian Hopkin, vice-chancellor of London South Bank University and chair of the Universities UK Skills Task Group, wondered, how exactly would such a development enhance the rapidly growing range of vocationally orientated higher education awards such as foundation degrees?

The best foundation degrees have all the characteristics of the proposed bachelors degrees - except they probably go further in terms of employer partnerships and work-based learning opportunities.

There may well, however, be an identified need for more such awards to be available on a national basis to serve particular industry sectors, albeit with a simpler way of providing and delivering them than through consortia of higher education institutions, as at present.

Foundation degrees are already fully embedded alongside bachelors awards within the qualifications frameworks both nationally and, more recently, within Europe, as short-cycle awards and full first-cycle awards respectively.

A two-year bachelors award intended for "young" higher education students seems to be somewhat of a paradox. It may cost less, but shortening the length of higher education study for non-mature learners - even those exceptionally competent in a discrete vocational area - appears to challenge the processes of learning and assimilating all the necessary academic, transferable and personal skills that, together with appropriate vocational skills, are all essential components of "graduateness".

Helen Corkill, Hitchin.

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