Concerns about the power that universities have in validating higher education courses at further education colleges have been rekindled by the decision of one institution to withdraw its validation services from almost a dozen colleges.
Teesside University said that it would be ending its validation of higher education programmes “in the wider college network outside the Tees Valley” in 2017, a decision that will affect 10 institutions.
Last month, Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), wrote to Paul Croney, Teesside’s vice-chancellor, to say that the announcement had come as a “very unwelcome surprise” to colleges, and that it would create “significant problems and additional work and cost” for them as they seek new validating partners.
He added that the break-up of the partnerships could have “significant repercussions for progression to higher education and in meeting employers’ needs in the region”.
John Widdowson, principal of New College Durham, one of the affected institutions, said the decision was “disappointing.”
“At New College Durham, we provide high-quality, accessible and affordable higher education for students who are often studying part-time to progress their career,” he said.
Nick Davy, the AoC’s higher education policy manager, said that the move was another example of why colleges should have more power to control their own qualifications.
“College HE provision is too important in widening participation and for local economic prosperity for it to be dependent to the extent it is upon the decisions of university partners,” he said. “Colleges should have the freedom to award their own qualifications without the need for university endorsement.”
A Teesside spokesman said that it had “reassured the colleges that this decision has been made purely on the university’s strategic direction of travel and not as a reflection on the quality of the provision”.
“The university is ensuring that each partner is fully supported during the notice and teach-out periods, and has offered assistance to colleges looking to secure an alternative accrediting partner,” he said.