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Minister for Lifelong Learning confirms faith in foundation degrees


An additional 10,000 full-time equivalent places will be made available exclusively for foundation degrees in 2004/5 minister for lifelong learning Alan Johnson and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) announced this week.

The minister's 2003 grant letter to HEFCE highlighted the 50,000 full time equivalent foundation degree places he expected to be available by 2005/6 - up from just 9,500 in 2002/3.

With the new foundation degree places up for grabs, institutions and FE colleges funded by HEFCE are being invited to bid.

The minister commented, “Foundation degrees are higher education qualifications of academic rigour and clear vocational relevance which have been built with employers to help meet the needs of the workforce."

As a result of the expansion overall full-time foundation degree acceptances in English institutions are up around 75% on the same point last year (from 2,964 to 5,155);

Johnson added: “We have made very clear that higher education expansion does not mean more of the same. We need expansion to reflect the needs of the economy and the economy is telling us it needs more graduates with specific skills at a particular level.

“They are proving successful and popular. Today’s UCAS figures show that many more students are choosing them and many more institutions are running them. That is why it is right to create an additional 10,000 places to be made available exclusively for foundation degrees in September 2004.

“I want to make clear that this exclusive focus on foundation degrees does not represent a threat to the availability of honours degree places. We are not going to force students to do courses they do not want to do. Foundation degree places will rise substantially to at least 50,000 in 2005/6 but in the same period we can expect student numbers on first degree courses to rise from just under 890,000 to around 930,000.

CBI spokesman outlines the possible benifits for business:-

CBI Director-General Digby Jones said: "Foundation degrees have real potential to equip students and employees with the skills that business needs. To deliver high value courses - whether academic or vocational - universities and further education colleges must understand the needs of employers and potential students.

“A flexible, customer focused approach, backed up by robust quality assurance, is the best way to establish this new qualification with employers and students alike."

Liz Beaty, Director, Learning and Teaching, HEFCE, said: “Foundation degrees play an important role in expanding student numbers, widening participation and meeting skills shortages. We are pleased to announce the allocation of £5.5m for the development of the foundation degree programmes and funding for 10,000 additional places. Such investment will help establish foundation degree as a valuable component of higher education provision in this country, extending choice and opportunities to both students and employers. The development of foundation degrees provides an excellent example of the growing collaboration between employers, Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), Sector Skills Councils (SSC), universities and colleges.”

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