Past experience

June 18, 2004

Consideration is being given to proposed changes to the foundation degree ("Overhaul plan for foundations", May 28), which would involve relaxing the work-based elements of the qualification and introducing "general" foundation degrees.

It may be worth reflecting on the experience in the further education sector of "general" vocational qualifications introduced in 1992 partly to encourage the participation of sixth-form colleges and school sixth forms that found the work-based nature of NVQs too demanding.

The Dearing report recommended a change of name to the advanced vocational certificate of education and this replaced the GNVQ in 2000. Ofsted reported in March that it remains a qualification that is "neither popular (with learners) nor well-designed", not "seriously vocational" and, in some subjects, "too similar to the GCE A level".

It would be unfortunate if the foundation degree were to share a similar fate, a qualification designed to meet supply-side needs that is inevitably a product of compromise.

Lynn Parker
University of Teesside

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