Credit transfer overdue

January 16, 1998

A national curriculum and 'unitised' degrees: are you ready for the lifelong learning white paper?

THE government's flagship University for Industry will flounder without a national system of "credit accumulation and transfer" for higher education qualifications, the UFI design chief said this week.

David Brown, chairman of the government's University for Industry Design and Implementation Advisory Group, said it was "imperative" that students could accumulate credit from parts of higher education courses that could be transferred between different institutions.

Mr Brown, who will produce a UFI "prospectus" for consultation next month, said that he was "absolutely certain" the government was addressing the issue of credit accumulation and transfer, or CAT, in its lifelong learning white paper expected later this month. A CAT system for all post-16 qualifications was recommended by Bob Fryer's advisory group for the white paper and by Sir Ron Dearing.

"People will want to pick-and-mix the courses they take, and dip in and out of education throughout their lives, and be able to gain a formal qualification," said Mr Brown, chairman of telecommunications giant Motorola, which has a Pounds 2.8 billion turnover. "Lifelong learning, in the round, is predicated on the establishment of a CAT system."

He said that this will mean that all degrees must be unitised. His plans also presuppose a higher education curriculum, which will be highly controversial. "But if the connection between different institutions is not made, it will clearly be an impediment to many people who would want to get involved in learning," he said.

A report by the Higher Education Quality Council last month, Credit in Higher Education, warned that moves towards any national curriculum would face obstacles. It said that although 80 per cent of institutions were developing their own schemes, development on a national scale was patchy. There was no accepted national definition of credit, and there had been an unwillingness to focus on how schemes could be applied nationally. Mr Brown said that his advisory group's three task groups were still fine-tuning details.

He said the UFI would be "the biggest and most radical education initiative anywhere in the world." He expects enrolments to the UFI will exceed "six figures" on its first day, "whenever the government gives it the go-ahead".

The UFI will be a "broker" of education courses, bringing together private and public education providers and potential learners. He said that formal, public education providers, like universities and colleges, would not have a monopoly.

"We want to encourage a network of all learning providers, not just universities," said Mr Brown. "Pride should not come into this. Whoever can provide the right course should be allowed to provide it."

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