Colleges fear for status in consortia

May 18, 2001

Further education colleges may lose as much as they gain by joining consortia offering foundation degrees, college leaders warned this week.

While education secretary David Blunkett has predicted that foundation degrees will mean an increase in the 200 colleges involved in higher education, some college heads fear that the initiative will weaken sub-degree provision in further education.

Delegates at an Association of Colleges conference yesterday were invited to consider the results of an AoC survey that uncovered the concerns.

A report on the findings says many college leaders are worried about the strength of their role in the delivery of foundation degrees.

Although the survey found many colleges felt they were actively involved in a foundation degree consortium, "there were indications that in some consortia, FE partners were 'kept informed' or had a supportive role rather than being treated as equal partners" by a higher education institution awarding the qualification.

Many colleges expressed concerns about the short timescale for setting up foundation degree consortia, which had made establishing good partnerships, especially with employers, difficult to achieve.

There were also worries about the impact of foundation degrees on HNC and HND programmes.

Where higher national programmes were to be converted into foundation degrees, colleges were unhappy about "losing control" over the funding, which would be passed on to them via the lead higher education institution in a consortium.

Where higher national provision remained, there was concern about potential overlap with foundation degrees and future credibility.

Susan Hayday, AoC curriculum manager and coordinator of the conference, said colleges were also apprehensive about the quality assurance implications of joining a foundation degree consortium.

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