Foundation degrees get the thumbs down

March 21, 2003

Two-year foundation degrees have been ruled out in Scotland, with universities pressed by the Scottish Executive to offer accelerated learning through better links with further education colleges, writes Olga Wojtas.

The executive's decision to rule out foundation degrees stands in stark contrast to Westminster's plans to use them as the main vehicle for higher education expansion in England and Wales.

Its wide-ranging review of higher education, published yesterday after more than a year of discussion and consultation, seeks instead to embed higher education firmly in wider lifelong learning, stressing the need for a closer relationship between universities and colleges.

Iain Gray, Scotland's minister for enterprise, transport and lifelong learning, said the single most practical expression of this would be growing opportunities for learners to "progress seamlessly" through education.

Ruling out foundation degrees, Mr Gray said he wanted to see the "two-plus-two" system of college followed by university more firmly established.

The review highlights the importance of institutions having the freedom to choose their own direction. "We want higher education to be an attractive place to work and study for those who prize the chance to experiment and explore," Mr Gray said.

But, says the review, in return, institutions must help achieve national priorities through their teaching and research, since the single largest funder is "Scottish society".

It says that all institutions rightly have some involvement in research but urges better collaboration to enable researchers to link up with colleagues elsewhere.

Institutions should engage in knowledge transfer as a matter of routine.

While they already have good international industrial links, there need to be better links with local businesses that may have little experience of working with higher education.

Governance and accountability is a major theme, with the review emphasising the need for good management to attract staff.

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