Higher education quality watchdogs have questioned the need for new higher-level General National Vocational Qualifications.
Work already under way on defining academic, vocational and personal skills acquired on degree courses may make the proposed development of higher GNVQs unnecessary, the Higher Education Quality Council said this week.
In its response to a consultation paper on higher GNVQs issued by the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, the HEQC says it "wonders why higher-level GNVQs should be needed", considering progress made in the quality council's graduate standards programme and problems still hampering lower-level GNVQs.
The council expresses "considerable surprise" that the paper makes no reference to how the quality of the proposed new qualifications might be assured or to how comparability of the assessment of students could be maintained.
"Such an omission seems especially odd given first, that it is one of the biggest single issues under discussion in higher education (and has been for some time); second, it is one of the most criticised aspects of the NVQ/GNVQ system; and third, it is known to be a generic difficulty with all highly specified criterion-referenced systems of assessment," the HEQC's response paper says.
Peter Wright, assistant director of the HEQC's quality enhancement group, said that although any discussions of how the sector should respond to change were welcome, the NCVQ's paper made many premature judgements and assumptions about the potential role of higher-level GNVQs.
And he warned that any move to impose GNVQ standards on higher education would be "the kiss of death" for the proposals.