Degree validation cuts lead to calls for FE awarding powers.

‘Calls are growing for FE providers to be given greater powers to award their own degrees, after a university announced that it is severing its ties with 10 colleges.

The decision by Teesside University to stop validating the degrees offered by all of its partner colleges outside the Tees Valley from 2017 will leave some of the country’s biggest FE providers – including Newcastle College, Bradford College and Leeds City College  forced to seek new accreditation for their programmes.

While 244 FE colleges in England offer higher education qualifications, only five of them have their own foundation degree-awarding powers. To date, none has been granted the power to award taught degrees. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) told TES that six more colleges were in the process of applying for foundation or taught-degree awarding powers.

The rest are required to have their degrees validated by a university partner. One expert said that the status quo left colleges “at the mercy” of universities, with whom they often ended up competing for students.

The institutions affected by Teesside’s move will now have to go through the lengthy and costly process of seeking a new validator if they are to continue offering degrees.’ - TES

‘Last month, Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), wrote to Paul Croney, Teesside’s vice-chancellor, to say that the announcement had come as a “very unwelcome surprise” to colleges, and that it would create “significant problems and additional work and cost” for them as they seek new validating partners.

He added that the break-up of the partnerships could have “significant repercussions for progression to higher education and in meeting employers’ needs in the region”.

John Widdowson, principal of New College Durham, one of the affected institutions, said the decision was “disappointing.”

“At New College Durham, we provide high-quality, accessible and affordable higher education for students who are often studying part-time to progress their career,” he said.

Nick Davy, the AoC’s higher education policy manager, said that the move was another example of why colleges should have more power to control their own qualifications.

“College HE provision is too important in widening participation and for local economic prosperity for it to be dependent to the extent it is upon the decisions of university partners,” he said. “Colleges should have the freedom to award their own qualifications without the need for university endorsement.”

A Teesside spokesman said that it had “reassured the colleges that this decision has been made purely on the university’s strategic direction of travel and not as a reflection on the quality of the provision”.’ – Times Higher Education


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