An innovative foundation degree framework that integrates work-based learning into higher level academic study programmes is that of the Royal Air Force Foundation Degree Consortium. It has designed two foundation degrees - one in business, one in leadership and management - to meet the specific staff-development needs of RAF service personnel.
The consortium - which comprises Foundation Degree Forward, the Royal Air Force Training Group, the universities of Chester, Derby and Staffordshire and the Open University - works in association with the Institute for Leadership and Management. It has developed the foundation degrees in such a way that work-based learning is integral to the programmes and meets the requirements of the RAF as an employer.
Squadron Leader David Freak says: "Not only will the degrees develop knowledge, understanding and skills directly relevant to an RAF career, but they are transferable to civilian employment when staff finally leave the service."
RAF Corporal Chris Hull from the Air Warfare Centre, based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, is studying for the leadership and management foundation degree. He says: "I have always been keen to put my long service experience and hard-earned knowledge to good use. The degree fulfils this need and also supports my role as a mentor."
The foundation degrees give RAF personnel the opportunity to achieve work-based higher education qualifications without interrupting their career. They are so flexible that RAF personnel can continue with their studies if they are posted overseas or on deployment. Students can study through a number of different learning styles to suit both the RAF and their individual learning needs. Approaches range from distance learning to face-to-face lectures delivered on RAF bases.
The involvement of the ILM means that RAF personnel who complete the foundation degree in leadership and management will also be able to claim the ILM diploma through accreditation of prior certificated learning.