Substantial obstacles remain to the creation of a national credit accumulation system as advocated by Dearing and the Fryer lifelong learning advisory group, a report has said.
Because of institutions' determination to keep the development of credit systems at grass-roots level, there has been no focus on how such schemes should work across Britain, according to the report Credit in Higher Education, published by the Higher Education Quality Council. But moves by funding council chiefs to forge a firm link between cash and credit could give calls for a national credit framework a "powerful nudge".
At least 80 per cent of higher education institutions now have a scheme under which students can accumulate credits, measured in notional hours of learning set at a particular level. In some cases, they can transfer them from one programme to another.
The development of such initiatives has been patchy, however, despite government efforts to foster collaboration between a number of regional credit consortia.
Since the HEQC last reported on credit systems three years ago, there has been little progress towards a national definition of credit. Some regions still lack consortia working on credit arrangements, the report said.
The situation could change radically if the Higher Education Funding Council for England goes ahead with its plans to introduce a notional unit system linked to funding from next year.
However, funding by credit will intensify the need for quality monitoring arrangements to check ratings, the report warns. "If credit-based funding is linked to course outcomes there may be pressure creation in relation to academic standards," it says.
Credit in Higher Education, Distribution, UCAS, Fulton House, Jessop Avenue, Cheltenham, Pounds 8.50