A course in golf studies, one of the most persistently derided of so-called Mickey Mouse degrees, has been given the seal of approval by funding chiefs, writes Alison Goddard.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England has awarded nearly 300 places to Birmingham University's foundation degree in golf studies, to be offered from this autumn and next.
The course has the highest number of places of all foundation degrees allocated by Hefce. It was deemed to be of high quality, to involve employers in its design and delivery and to meet a skills need.
Hefce handed out almost 9,000 full-time equivalent places and £5.6 million in developing funding to 105 higher and further education institutions. Most will go to universities, which will either run the courses themselves or pass part of the cash to further education colleges, which will deliver the foundation degrees on their behalf.
Sir Howard Newby, Hefce chief executive, also called for closer links between further education colleges and universities. Students who gain good marks in a foundation degree at a further education college could be guaranteed places on full degree courses at university.
He said: "The core of any progression strategy will be the ability of learners to move between different programmes and, if necessary, institutions to fulfil their potential. We need to recognise the enhanced role of further education colleges in providing the necessary progression routes post-16.
"Should we not be looking at how we can develop a group of institutions in further education specifically focused on delivering post-16 students from underrepresented backgrounds to higher education? It is likely, therefore, that we at the funding council will need to pay greater attention to how we can encourage institutions, both further education and higher education, to connect to each other, creating the sense of seamless progression along clearly signposted pathways."
John Rushforth, director of widening participation at Hefce, said: "We are exploring possibilities at this early stage before we launch a more formal process. We are setting out the problem, and looking to institutions to come forward with a proposition that meets their circumstances. If people can come up with a proposition, we will look actively at funding it. We want a range of institutions in the network to say to the student: 'These are the opportunities open to you across the network, not only for entry to a higher education programme but for progression to any programme for which you are qualified and from which you can benefit'."