Industry training chiefs this week accused Nottingham Trent University of cashing in on foundation degrees before the official launch of the government's proposed new qualification.
Andy Powell, chief executive of the National Training Organisation's national council, said he was worried by Nottingham Trent's decision to market a version of the proposed two-year, vocational sub-degree before the design of the new qualifications had been finalised. Government-backed pilots are due to start in September.
But a brochure already published by Nottingham Trent offers "the university foundation degree" in 17 subject areas from 2000-01.
"The university foundation degree is an exciting new vocational qualification designed to provide people with the essential key skills and attributes that are increasingly required in the world of work," the brochure says.
Mr Powell is concerned that the proposed qualifications will be undermined in the eyes of potential students and employers because nothing can stop a university naming any of its awards a "foundation degree".
He said: "It is fundamental that as we set up the qualification there is real partnership between employers and further and higher education. The success of the degree depends on delivering the guarantee that employers want it and have been closely involved in designing it."
The Department for Education and Employment's foundation degree design group has only recently published the prospectus inviting official tenders from formal consortia of institutions and employers to set up foundation degree programmes. The qualifications will be backed with a major marketing drive by the DFEE.
A spokeswoman for Nottingham Trent said the university had been "ahead of the game in pioneering the concept of foundation degrees". She said: "The DFEE has endorsed the principles of our new programme as complementary to the ethos underlying the government's plans for foundation degrees."
Nottingham Trent will be among the first to offer students the chance to embark on the foundation degree