The government’s decision to suspend the process for applying for degree-awarding powers will be a “blow” for FE colleges, it has been claimed.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has imposed a “moratorium” on new applications submitted after 2 April, pending the completion of a review into the process, it has emerged.
A spokesman said BIS was reviewing criteria and guidance for degree-awarding powers, university title and designation for Hefce [Higher Education Funding Council for England] grant funding, “to ensure they continue to protect the reputation and integrity of the UK higher education sector”.
The “moratorium” on new applications will remain in place until the review is complete, which could take until early 2016, the spokesman added.
Nick Davy, HE policy manager at the Association of Colleges, said: “The decision to suspend the process for institutions applying for degree-awarding powers or to use university in their title will be a blow for colleges.
“They will be left without the opportunity to strengthen the reputation of their higher education provision until 2016 when this review concludes.
“It is a shame that incidents which tend to affect private HE providers will have an impact on colleges, which are trying to offer the best education they can to their students. Colleges offer courses that are of equal standard to universities and as such should be allowed to award degrees in their own name.”
A BIS spokesman confirmed to TES that seven FE colleges are currently undergoing scrutiny for both foundation and taught degree awarding powers, though he could not confirm which institutions are applying for what for reasons of confidentiality. However, he said these applications will not be delayed by the moratorium.
Although almost 300 FE colleges in England offer HE courses designed and accredited by universities, only four have the power to award their own foundation degrees: Grimsby Institute, New College Durham, Newcastle College and Warwickshire College. To date, no colleges have been granted taught degree-awarding powers.