University staff could shift sectors if colleges win validation powers

October 13, 2006

A bid to give colleges the power to validate their own foundation degrees could lead to a migration of university lecturers to further education institutions, it was claimed this week.

College heads are pressing the Government to take the first steps towards allowing further education colleges that run large numbers of higher education courses to apply for foundation degree validation powers in the forthcoming Further Education Bill.

The Bill is expected to be included in the Queen's Speech on November 15.

They argue that current arrangements, under which all foundation degrees must be validated by a university, are constraining the growth and development of the qualification by preventing colleges from responding quickly and effectively to employers' needs for higher level vocational training.

If colleges could gain their own validation powers, they would be free to develop foundation degrees in areas not currently covered - often because universities do not have the relevant expertise or are not interested in the subject area, they say.

New legislation would be needed to give colleges the right to apply for validation powers. But college principals are optimistic that conditions are right for ministers to give the green light.

A significant by-product of allowing this to happen could be more career opportunities for university and college staff working on developing and teaching foundation degrees, said John Widdowson, principal of New College Durham and chair of the Mixed Economy Group of colleges.

He said: "The boundary between the sectors will become more permeable, with more flow of staff between them. We could see more staff from higher education coming to work in colleges."

David Melville, vice-chancellor of Kent University and chair of the University Vocational Awards Council, which has created a new national validation service for foundation degrees, said: "If a large mixed-economy college has its own validation powers, it might well attract foundation degree staff from a university."

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