The prospectus for foundation degree programmes
Just 2,000 students are expected to enrol on foundation degree programmes next year, putting the courses' future in doubt.
Margaret Murray, policy adviser at the Confederation of British Industry, asked: "Is there employer demand for foundation degrees? That's the $1,000 question."
The government has said 80 per cent of the expansion of higher education will be via foundation degrees. The prospectus for them was published this week.
The slow start drew criticism from the Open University, which recruits some 30,000 degree students each year and had been hoping to attract similar numbers of foundation-degree students.
Geoff Peters, OU pro vice-chancellor, said: "We get bold statements from (education secretary) David Blunkett on foundation degrees and we all gear up to meet that vision. Then what trickles through is at best modest. It feels like there isn't confi-dence in the scale of expansion."
Lifelong learning minister Malcolm Wicks acknowledged: "We expect further expansion (to take) place gradually."
A national advertising campaign will be run by the Department for Education and Employment. Universities and colleges will be encouraged to involve local employers in the design and review of programmes.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England will conduct market research into demand from employers and students. The work, which will start in autumn, will help identify the proportion of students likely to progress to an honours degree.
The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals was pleased that the prospectus contained no threat to cap the number of foundation-degree students progressing to honours degrees.
A wide range of institutions hopes to offer the new qualification, including members of the Russell Group of research-led universities.
THE PROSPECTUS FOR FOUNDATION DEGREE PROGRAMMES
* Employment: close collaboration between employers and foundation-degree providersto establish demand for foundation degrees. Employer involvement in the design and regular review of programmes. The links aim to promote recognition of the foundation degree by employer and professional bodies.
* Skills and knowledge development: theprogramme will develop technical and workspecific skills, underpinned by rigorous and broad-based academic learning. Key skills and generic skills will befostered. Skills and knowledge development will be recorded by a transcript validated by the awarding bodyand underpinned by a personal development plan.
* Work experience:students must demonstrate skills in workrelevant to the area of study. Work experience should be accredited, validated, assessed and recorded, with credit exemptions for those with relevant work experience.
* Credit accumulation and transfer: foundation degrees will attract a minimum of 240 credits. It will be up to individual consortia to agree credit accumulation and transfer arrangements and recognition of appropriate prior or work-based learning through the award of credits.
* Progression: there must be guaranteed articulation arrangements with at least one honours degree. These must be clearly stated and time taken should not exceed 1.3 years or a full-time equivalent student.