New degree is a 'cheap and inferior con'

May 30, 2003

Phil Baty reports on fierce debate at Natfhe's annual conference

Foundation degrees are a "con on working-class people", the Natfhe conference agreed.

Delegates threw out parts of a motion that gave a lukewarm welcome to the degrees as a method of widening access. They said the degrees were a ruse to increase numbers on the cheap and would give working-class students an inferior qualification wrongly branded a "degree".

Mary Davis of Natfhe's inner-London region said: "Foundation degrees are training. They are not education. It's a con on working-class people."

Brandishing last week's issue of The THES , which reported plans by 20 corporations to develop their own foundation degrees with public money, she said the degrees would be run by business and would have little academic content.

Mike Farmer of western region, a supporter of the degrees, said: "At an open day at my university, dozens of people came to see about new degrees.

None would have come to the university on our current systems."

Liz Lawrence, a Natfhe national negotiator, asked if students could "go on to do a full degree? Or is it a two-year course that traps people because it is narrowly vocational?"

The foundation degree motion, put by the southern region, was reduced to state: "Any attempt by the government to introduce foundation degrees on the cheap by any levelling down of pay and conditions (or by) seeking to undermine the established philosophy of independent inquiry in higher education will be fiercely resisted."

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