Worry without foundation

February 14, 2008

Patrick Ainley suggests that a move towards foundation degrees is to "dumb down" towards competence-based programmes ("The cruellest con", 7 February). Further, he says that new vocational diplomas will "be picked up by desperate further education then passed on as foundation degrees to what are becoming the training universities". There is no evidence to support this. On the contrary, he fails to make the important distinction between a foundation degree and an apprenticeship or purely vocational qualification.

Foundation degrees involve a good deal of workplace-based learning, but they also require academic study. A firm academic grounding is essential, and many students go on to use it as the basis for a bachelors degree or higher qualifications.

Ainley also laments the lack of a "surviving alternative to academic higher education". It is unclear what aims he thinks this alternative would have. Foundation degrees are a valuable component in the range of degrees on offer and provide a mix of workplace-based and academic study that has consistently bridged the gap for young people between school and the workplace, advanced the careers of those already in employment who may have never considered a purely academic course, and helped key UK sectors to attract and retain staff with the skills they need to compete. What more could an "alternative" achieve?

Derek Longhurst, Director, fdf (Foundation Degree Forward)

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