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Higher Education

Foundation degrees for FE colleges

Northumbria and Greenwich universities, in partnership with exam board Edexcel, have launched a series of 100 'off the peg' foundation degrees for further education colleges

Foundation degrees are seen as crucial to achieving the government's controversial target of 50% of young people entering higher education by 2010. Much of the increase is intended to consist of students taking degree level courses in further education colleges.

Northumbria and Greenwich universities also hope the qualification will help them attract more overseas students.

Colleges will be able to offer the two-year vocational degrees from September without having to design their own courses from scratch. The BTEC foundation degrees meet national standards and will lead to a qualification awarded by the two partner universities.

Approximately 100 titles in art and design, business, computing, construction, engineering, hospitality, land, performing arts, public services, and sport, fitness and exercise have already been developed. More subjects, including media, early years, music and applied science, are being developed for launch in 2005 and 2006.

Welcoming the BTEC degrees, higher education minister Alan Johnson says that they will add to the choice and diversity of foundation degrees, which can only be beneficial for both colleges and students. "This will also help," he adds, "with the underlying aim of raising educational and skills levels among our young learners and mature students, and in the workforce."

Edexcel hopes that employers who are familiar with existing BTEC qualifications, including the HNC and HND, will be attracted to the new degrees.

Professor Tony Dickson, deputy vice-chancellor at Northumbria University, comments that the BTEC courses could play an important role in promoting the take up of foundation degrees in general. They would provide many colleges with a ready-made solution to the problems of developing and assessing foundation degree courses to the necessary high quality standards.

"The scheme is clearly one," he says, "that underpins the government agenda with regard to both foundation degrees and a commitment to offering quality UK higher education to students from overseas."

Professor John Humphreys, pro vice-chancellor at Greenwich, adds: "It was at the University of Greenwich that David Blunkett, then secretary of state for education and skills, announced the creation of foundation degrees, so it is fitting that the university should play a key role in this initiative. These important new degrees from Edexcel and BTEC will enable a wide range of institutions to provide work-related courses to address skill needs in their regions."

Specifications for the new degrees are available on the Edexcel website at:




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