V-c blames foundations plan for scuttling honours

November 21, 2003

The government policy of expanding foundation degree places needs to be re-examined, as it is stifling the growth of honours degrees, says the vice-chancellor of Newcastle University.

Christopher Edwards said he would like Newcastle to expand student numbers, particularly among disadvantaged groups, but he described plans for a freeze on student places next year to support the expansion of foundation degrees as a "straitjacket".

Students were questioning the validity of the new qualification, he said.

He added that foundation degrees lacked any evidence base and it was also naive to think that they were cheaper than a traditional three-year degree.

"The government will have to rethink this policy because a lot of foundation-degree students are going to want to upgrade their qualification to an honours degree," he said.

"This whole area needs re-examining. We live in a society where people are very sensitive about the idea that their qualification might not be a proper degree, and it is important we ensure that those who want to translate their foundation degree to an honours degree are able to do so."

In the two years to 2003, Newcastle has seen an increase in funding council income; it has also had a rise in international students numbers and more applications from the UK. The university gained approval to create 810 new places by 2005.

Professor Edwards said he would like the university to expand further but this could occur only with a change in government policy.

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