College heads are "frustrated beyond belief" by the revelation that it will take years for higher education colleges to be given degree-awarding powers, writes Alison Goddard.
Dorma Urwin, chair of the Standing Conference of Principals, told delegates at Scop's annual conference this week: "One of the disappointments of 1999 was the long delay in determining the new criteria for degree-awarding powers.
"Many (Scop) members are stuck in a log-jam, waiting to
go through the process. Scop will continue to lobby extremely hard to ensure that (applications) are handled as fairly and quickly as possible and not subjected to further unnecessary delays."
Colleges must apply for degree-awarding powers through the Quality Assurance Agency. If the application is strong, the agency would inspect the college over a year.
However, college principals attending the conference complained that the timescale for applications to be turned around was too open-ended.
Bob Fryer, principal of the Central School of Speech and Drama, said: "We have been waiting for a year to put in for degree-awarding powers. We have a good track record (in quality assessments) and no black marks ... The Central School of Speech and Drama has been going for 100 years and we want to award Central degrees."
Patricia Ambrose, Scop's chief executive, said: "We would find it unacceptable if the application process ended up being spun out for more than a year."
Ms Ambrose said she expected about 20 higher education colleges - half of Scop's membership - to consider applying for degree-awarding powers.
That process would cost each college around Pounds 35,000 in additional staff costs.
Nine higher education colleges already award their own taught degrees.