FE myths scotched

March 24, 2000

As England grapples with its agenda of foundation degrees and quality improvement for HE provision in colleges ("Quality boss mars new Labour vision", THES, March 17), a reminder of the very different situation in Scotland may be timely.

Here more than 40 per cent of Scots entering full-time HE for the first time now do so in an FE college. This has done wonders for wider access of under-represented groups and ensured that Higher National Certifications and Diplomas continue to be valued and taken up as important qualifications in their own right.

At the same time, many students now go on from HNC and HND to study for degrees, helped by the many "articulation agreements" between colleges and degree-awarding institutions to improve opportunities and articulation, particularly for mature students. The HE and FE sectors have shown they do work well together for the benefit of students without loss of quality or distinctiveness of provision.

A single credit and qualifications framework is not only a target but within reach for Scotland. Of course improvements in quality of provision will be needed to ensure that there are no "second-class citizens" or dead-end routes. This will be a challenge for the new Scottish Further Education Funding Council to address and for the devolved Scottish Executive to fund.

But all the evidence confirms that "standards are secure" in FE colleges. Indeed colleges have justifiable complaints about the "over-audit" to which they are subject. Students who succeed at HNC and HND have demonstrated a great capacity to go on and do well in degree-level study.

Tom Kelly

Chief officer

Association of Scottish Colleges

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