Little to fear from FE Bill

October 30, 2008

It was with interest I read your feature about further education colleges gaining the ability under the Further Education and Training Bill to award their own foundation degrees ("Fight or flight", 16 October).

There is a little deja vu in reading this article, as I remember similar arguments being put forward when changes were made to the criteria for eligibility for degree-awarding powers under the Further and Higher Education Act (1992).

Since only a few providers have pursued their own degree-awarding powers under that piece of legislation, it is likely that it will be the same under this scheme. What needs to be remembered, and possibly forgotten as part of the arguments put forward, is the philosophy of foundation degrees in that they are employer focused - having a substantial element of employer engagement in both their design and delivery.

Employers don't want to fit into the annual cycle of university validation programmes; they want providers who are flexible and responsive. What is not mentioned is whether students would value the qualification if awarded by the local further education college.

Students study degree-level programmes at further education colleges for a variety of reasons, including the name of the organisation that is conferring the qualification. I don't believe that universities should be notably concerned, unless they are not responding to the needs of the market.

Steve Lambert, Reading.

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