Degree take-up sparks concern

June 8, 2001

Admissions staff are working hard to recruit students onto foundation degree courses after a national advertising campaign failed to materialise.

The campaign, funded by the Department for Education and Employment, was supposed to boost awareness of the new qualification. The first foundation degree courses are due to start in September and concerns remain that it may be difficult to fill places.

Oliver Fulton, who chairs the foundation degree board at the University of Lancaster, said: "There were plans for a national marketing campaign, but I think they got caught up in the election. We are relatively relaxed about it.

"We had concerns about whether anyone would want a foundation degree and that question hasn't entirely gone away. Maybe next year a campaign will be needed."

The university is leading a consortium that offers three foundation degree courses - for classroom assistants, technology workers and personal advisers for the Connexions youth guidance service.

John Dickinson, secretary for the consortium, said: "For the teaching classroom assistants, we had 230 applications for 50 places. The other courses have later closing dates but applications are going well and we are confident that we will fill them."

Bob Bell, pro vice-chancellor of the University of Sunderland, said: "A national campaign starting in the spring would have helped to reach a bigger audience.

Sunderland is leading a consortium offering foundation degrees in software engineering and multimedia, starting in September.

Harper Adams University College is head of a consortium offering foundation degrees for the equine industry.

SURF TO PROVIDE A BRIGHT FUTURE

Foundation degrees will be offered alongside HNDs and HNCs in what Staffordshire University claims to be the biggest further and higher education partnership network in the country, writes Tony Tysome.

Launched this week, the initiative brings 11 Staffordshire and Shropshire further education colleges into a regional federation with the university in a move to match sub-degree provision to local needs.

The Staffordshire University Regional Federation (Surf) represents a new approach to planning and funding higher education at a regional level, with further education colleges as equal partners, according to Staffordshire deputy vice-chancellor Susan O'Brien.

Money for sub-degree students recruited by member institutions has been pooled and will be managed by a single board that will develop strategic plans for the region to promote collaboration and reduce duplication and unnecessary competition.

Dr O'Brien said: "We would like to be able to work towards a more American-style model where we can plan what courses should be provided where."

The first foundation degree to be offered by the federation will be in project management, followed by others in health and social care and in food science.

Dr O'Brien said: "We have looked at all the courses we have and asked how we can use this new qualification to do something different."

Staffordshire has support from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and is planning to bid for funding from regional agencies.

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