University and college leaders have welcomed an increase of nearly 25 per cent in the number of people applying to study foundation degree courses.
The latest Ucas figures show that by the end of June, institutions had received 49,915 applications for places on full-time foundation degree courses - a 24.4 per cent rise compared with the same time last year.
Champions of the new qualification predicted this week that the increase, together with continuing growth in applications for part-time courses, means the Government's target of getting 100,000 people on to foundation degree programmes by 2010 is likely to be met. But vice-chancellors are unconvinced by plans to allow colleges to design, deliver and award the qualifications without a partnership with a university, as is currently required.
The plan is included in the Government's Further Education and Training Bill, which was expected to pass its final stage in the House of Lords as The Times Higher went to press this week.
Universities UK president Drummond Bone said: "The 25 per cent growth in applications to foundation degrees is welcome, especially since the proposed changes to foundation degree provision [in the FE Bill] were based on the assumption that the current system is hindering growth."
Les Ebdon, chair of Campaigning for Mainstream Universities, said: "Universities are most definitely pulling their weight in expanding foundation degree provision. This is why the Government must promote the role of universities, which have been very effective in encouraging these students to fulfil their potential."
Derek Longhurst, chief executive of Foundation Degree Forward, said around half of foundation degree students are taking their course at university. "A lot of the early debate about who should deliver foundation degrees has settled down now into more of an understanding that collaboration between universities and colleges is the favoured option among students and employers," he said.
John Widdowson, chair of the Mixed Economy Group of colleges whose members are most likely to benefit from foundation degree awarding powers, said: "UUK will disapprove of us getting awarding powers because it is a change, but it has been welcomed in other quarters. The fears they have about it affecting HE/FE partnerships have been overstated."