Makeover for degree at TVU

July 5, 2002

Foundation degrees for hairdressers, beauticians and aromatherapists will be offered next year under plans being developed by Thames Valley University.

The university is developing an applied business foundation degree that would equip further education students with the skills needed to run a business.

TVU vice-chancellor Kenneth Barker said: "People do hair and beauty at further education level but don't think about it being combined with the knowledge needed to run your own business. Then there's aromatherapy and health-related therapies.

"As students move from further education to higher education through applied business, they will acquire the level of business skills needed to get into a position where they can look towards a more managerial post."

TVU offers foundation degrees in hospitality, music and multimedia technology and in web-based computing. It plans to offer the applied business foundation degree next year alongside a course in public administration.

However, an expert from PricewaterhouseCooopers warned last week that foundation degrees would not widen participation as envisaged by the government.

Colin Biggs, head of higher education consulting at PwC, told a conference on diversity and employability that the new qualification was competing with higher national diplomas and appealing to the same people. "The demographic profile is similar to HND. If foundation degrees are to have a major role in widening participation, they are going to have to have a different profile.

"At the moment, part-time students are female and full-time students are male. Most part-time students are aged above 25, while many full-time students are 18. The overwhelming majority of students are white, and there are swaths of foundation degrees that are not attracting ethnic minorities. The majority of Asian and black students are enrolled on business, management and IT-related courses," Dr Biggs said.

"In terms of widening participation, these are not figures that are going to get us on the edge of our seats with excitement. The first year suggests that a lot more needs to be done."

Last autumn, 32 foundation degrees were launched. Within three months, 85 per cent of places had been filled. Higher education minister Margaret Hodge this week called for feedback on the pilot degrees.

Dr Biggs also told the conference that many more partnerships would be needed to teach more foundation-degree students using fewer staff.

He said: "We are looking at an anticipated 35 per cent increase in participation and rapid expansionI at the time when staff numbers will be falling across the sector. There is a big issue about who is going to teach these students."

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