Colleges free to apply for degree-awarding powers as moratorium ends

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Proposals to remove barriers to entry into the higher education market have been welcomed by FE colleges.

In a speech yesterday, universities minister Jo Johnson said the government wanted to provide students with greater choice of how and where to start a career.

He said a new green paper, to be published in the autumn, would prioritise the removal of barriers to entry into the HE market to “open the door to challenger institutions”, deliver greater competition and drive up standards.

To help remove some of these barriers, the minister said he would lift the moratorium on applications for new degree awarding powers and the university title, which he said would allow providers to challenge traditional institutions by offering more choice for students.

The moratorium, on new applications submitted after April 2 this year, had been described by the Association of Colleges (AoC) as a “blow” for FE colleges that wanted to enter the HE market.

Nick Davy, HE policy manager at the AoC, welcomed the latest announcement.

“I think the system that was in place before the moratorium took too long,” he said. “It’s a complex process and rightly so, but we have never seen any reason why it should take so long. We welcome Jo Johnson’s comment that he will bring in some new rules and regulations that will streamline the process. Only a minority of colleges want degree-awarding powers but they would welcome that.”

Mr Davy said the moratorium had meant a “handful” of FE colleges preparing to enter the HE market had had to “hold back” on their applications. He said they would be “relieved” at the minister’s announcement.

While 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.

Last  month a survey revealed eight FE colleges gained student satisfaction ratings of 100 per cent for the quality of their higher education courses. No university in England scored higher than 98 per cent.

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