Built on good foundations

October 23, 2008

Your article "Fight or flight" (16 October) states that the Further Education Bill will allow "further education colleges across England to award their own foundation degrees" and they will have "unlimited ability to franchise foundation degrees".

Let's be clear - the Further Education Bill will allow further education colleges with a substantive history of delivering higher education to apply for foundation degree-awarding powers, and a minority of large colleges will do so. It's unlikely that this will have a significant impact for years to come.

The foundation degree is the political football being kicked around by colleges and universities in their supply-side preoccupation with "bums on seats" to attract funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Perhaps those with interests in foundation degrees within the sector should concentrate on looking outwards.

Foundation degrees are not a "vocational" qualification, as is frequently suggested. They are vocationally focused but also academically rigorous - this is what employers and employees want. In place of the claims that the qualification is "fragile" or is "unproven", it would be useful to cite an employer's view of foundation degrees in the context of workforce development.

According to Paul Excell, chief of operations of BT Group Technology, foundation degrees are a "fantastic programme - a really cost-effective way of developing our future leaders".

Derek Longhurst, Chief executive, Foundation Degree Forward.

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