Bologna foundation

October 27, 2000

As UK signatory to the Bologna Declaration on Higher Education, I was surprised to see an article, "Degree is short of European standard", ( THES , October 20) implying we do not consider foundation degrees to be real degrees.

Not so. We are justly proud of our honours degrees but a three-year degree is not the only option. Diverse higher education is vital. We need foundation degrees to provide the associate professionals and skilled technicians for tomorrow's knowledge economy.

Foundation degrees will offer students from a wider background better skills and life chances. Higher education institutions and their employer partners are ready to offer those opportunities. Competition to develop prototypes has been heavily oversubscribed.

Bologna is about bringing European graduate and postgraduate frameworks closer. As foundation degrees are not styled as bachelor degrees, it does not go against the agreement. Indeed, it will be possible to convert from a foundation degree to a bachelor degree through a maximum of an extra four terms' study. Maintaining high quality is no less important. The Quality Assurance Agency will review foundation degree programmes alongside others and institutions will be expected to demonstrate they are fit for their important purpose and to meet the highest standards.

Tessa Blackstone
Minister for higher education

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