Unacceptable levels of student progression and achievement at Stockport College of Further and Higher Education have been identified by quality inspectors, who warned that two degree courses may not be "viable", writes Phil Baty.
The college is recruiting to HND courses students who cannot pass the exams, said a Quality Assurance Agency report into sub-degree and degree-level provision in building, civil engineering and electrical engineering.
Only 44 per cent of students entering HND courses in 1996 progressed to the second year, compared with an already low 70 per cent in 1995, inspectors found.
"For a large proportion of the college's HND students," the report said, "the institution's aims relating to providing base knowledge, skills and understanding for technician careers and programmes with the necessary academic rigour to allow students to progress on to undergraduate courses are not met.
"The conclusion drawn is that the college is recruiting some students who are not able satisfactorily to complete their programmes."
For the five courses inspected, the QAA found a ratio of applications to places of 1:1. Most courses failed to recruit to target, and A-level point scores for sub-degree courses were "low". Applications to degree courses had been so poor, the inspectors found, "there are doubts about their viability for 1998 entry".
Completion rates on the degree-level courses were high, the report said, but external examiners have criticised third-year undergraduate dissertations for shallowness.
The inspectors said that the college's stated objectives were being met in the five other areas inspected - curriculum, teaching and learning, student support, learning resources and quality assurance. The college will be re-inspected within a year.
The college has declined to comment.