HND interest wanes

May 12, 2006

The market for two-year sub-degrees has shrunk significantly since the Government introduced its flagship foundation degree five years ago, new figures reveal.

Data provided for The Times Higher by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that while the number of applicants accepted on foundation degree courses rose from 886 to 12,511 between 2001 and 2005, the number of higher national diploma students dropped from 28,859 to 12,053.

The latest application figures indicate that the trend is continuing. The number applying for places on full-time foundation degrees climbed by 23,565 to reach 32,797 this year compared with 2003. Applications for HNDs fell by 28,717 to a total of 24,408 in the same period.

It was possible that the figures do not reveal the full extent of the loss from sub-degree study, said David Robertson, head of the Policy Development Unit at Liverpool John Moores University, who is conducting a review of foundation degrees for the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

"We know that the foundation degree is finding new markets that were not previously covered by HNDs," he said. "If you add that into the mix, you end up with a shortfall that could be as much as 10,000 students.

"What makes it even worse is that the Government has been forcing growth in student numbers into foundation degrees, so you would expect numbers to rise there anyway."

Professor Robertson said he suspected that as HND courses had declined, many students had opted for an honours degree rather than a foundation degree.

Derek Longhurst, chief executive of Foundation Degree Forward, the body set up to promote and support foundation degrees, said the market was complex, with about half of foundation degree students on part-time courses.

The take-up of foundation degrees may have been slowed in some areas by a lack of employer support or by poor market analysis conducted by institutions, he suggested.

But he added: "The decline in HNDs is of much longer standing than the introduction of foundation degrees. What we are seeing is just a continuation of that decline rather than something that has been caused by foundation degrees."

tony.tysome@thes.co.uk

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