Validation wrangle over new degrees

Further education colleges' hopes for a national validating system for foundation degrees are likely to be dashed.

The government-appointed group considering responses to the foundation degree proposals is expected to reject calls for the Open University to provide a national framework for the qualification.

The national validation framework has been proposed by the Association of Colleges as an alternative for FE colleges that do not want to be tied to the requirements of their local university.

The AoC is concerned that foundation degree students wishing to progress from college to an honours degree will be restricted to moving to the local university validating the qualification under a consortium arrangement.

Colleges will lose the current flexible arrangements for higher national diplomas and certificates that have national awarding bodies and so are not tied to local higher education institutions.

The so-called "mixed economy" group of colleges, which have a high proportion of higher education work, had also been pinning their hopes for moving to polytechnic status on an OU-validated national framework.

The foundation degree group is considering responses, in preparation for publishing a prospectus in July containing possible models, funding arrangements, and criteria for the qualification. Tenders for up to ten pilots will be invited in September.

Government officials are understood to be wary of putting in place a system that might encourage FE institutions to move independently towards offering more higher education.

In its response paper, the AoC also argues for funding for foundation degree programmes to flow direct to provider colleges, rather than through the validating institution.

It says: "Within a consortium arrangement, although the HEI will be responsible for validation and quality assurance, funding should go direct to the providers."

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