Thumbs down to GNVQ

July 12, 1996

Government plans to introduce degree-level vocational qualifications for all subjects have been put on hold following a resounding rejection from Britain's universities.

Over half the universities (55 per cent) rejected the Government's proposition to introduce higher level general national vocational qualifications, according to a consultation report conducted by the national council for vocational qualifications.

Only 33 per cent voted for the idea, with 12 per cent undecided.

Contrary to popular perception, the new universities were even less supportive of the Government's idea than the traditional universities.

Of the new universities, just 23 per cent favoured higher level GNVQs, and 73 per cent were against. By contrast, 38 per cent of old universities were in favour, and 48 per cent against.

The plan to introduce higher level GNVQs - equivalent to an undergraduate degree and a masters degree - has stalled because universities felt the "added value" a new qualification would bring had not been demonstrated.

Many claimed the objectives of top GNVQs - outcomes-based learning, unit credit for credit accumulation and transfer (CAT), core skills - were already being achieved through modifications to existing degree courses and professional qualifications.

Some universities were also concerned with a perceived threat posed by GNVQs to their autonomy as degree-awarding institutions.

Professional bodies were identified as the most appropriate institutions to set standards, and although universities emerged as key institutions for awarding GNVQs, several respondents thought it should only be as a member of a consortium.

Another drawback was that the attention given to higher level GNVQs could end up distracting attention from level 3 GNVQs - the vocational A levels which are emerging as important university entrance qualifications.

However, most bodies consulted by the NCVQ broadly favoured higher level GNVQs. FE institutions, in particular, registered overwhelming support: 71 per cent in favour, 12 per cent against.

As a result, the NCVQ is recommending the development of model degree-level GNVQ courses and units in selected subject areas.

The idea is to create a catalyst for such GNVQ objectives as core skills and a national basis for a CAT system.

At the same time, there will be a review of the existing role of core skills in higher education and professional development.

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