CVU may validate two-year degrees

May 9, 2003

The Council of Validating Universities has emerged as a leading candidate to represent higher education in Foundation Degree Forward, the body that will offer a national validation service for foundation degrees.

Derek Pollard, the CVU's chairman, confirmed this week that talks were under way with the Department for Education and Skills over a possible role for the council in establishing and running the FDF.

The CVU, which has 83 higher education and 52 further education member institutions, was well placed to fulfil the validation and supporting guidance functions envisaged for the FDF in the white paper, he said.

"We have a natural interest, because the foundation degree involves validating arrangements between universities, further education colleges and employers," he added.

The government has yet to invite bids for establishing the FDF, and other organisations may be considered. But a source said that the CVU was "definitely in the frame".

Dr Pollard said he was in favour of the triumvirate model for the FDF, which had won support from further education leaders and was being considered by DFES officials. This would share the FDF's membership between representative bodies for higher education, further education and the sector skills councils.

But the CVC would first have to determine if there was a demand for a national validating network for foundation degrees.

"A needs analysis must come first. If it turns out that there isn't a demand, then it may not even be worth setting up Foundation Degree Forward," he said.

Margaret Lawson, DFES-sponsored foundation-degree officer for the Association of Colleges, which hopes to make up the further education arm of the FDF, said she would be happy to see the CVU playing a part in the new body.

"They have been very supportive of foundation degrees all along and they have set such high validation standards," she said.

Ms Lawson told a foundation degrees conference in London that it was expected that the FDF would come on stream in autumn, and a full support team would be in place by the summer.

But she said there were growing concerns that the design of foundation degrees was being driven by the requirements of the higher education sector and the honours degree.

"The foundation degree has been given added recognition in the white paper and I would not want to see it becoming simply the first two years of an honours degree," she said.

Graham Peake, director of professional and organisational development for the Learning and Skills Development Agency, warned that foundation degrees were "a potential source of tension between further and higher education".

"It will be interesting to see what happens with Foundation Degree Forward, where the government seems to be telling colleges they can get foundation degrees validated through the FDF, but they will still get funded for it through their local university. There is another potential tension there," he said.

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