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Equine studies leads the field

MANCHESTER'S thriving small business sector is typical new economy: web design and multimedia graphics with shades of fashion, film-making and ceramics.

The training interests of this disparate industry are championed by an organisation called the Cultural Industries Development Service (CIDS), an EU-funded employment programme based in Manchester which has played an active role on the foundation degree steering group.

"We wouldn't have been able to launch a foundation degree if it hadn't been for CIDS," says Penny Blackie, senior curriculum manager for City College Manchester. "There is a lack of training opportunities and not many courses bring graphic design and multimedia together. There are thousands of small companies working in this field and they want their workers to be multi-skilled."

City College Manchester is running its foundation degree in new media design as part of a consortium led by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU); it includes two other FE colleges, Hopwood Hall and Thameside College.

All three FE colleges had worked with MMU on various forms of degree and HND accreditation. Between them, the four institutions recruited 60 students and will share resources and responsibility for running different parts of the degree.

This degree is innovative. "We do think it's adding something to the HNC and HNDs," says Ms Blackie. "It'll be adding more extensive employer links and different kinds of work experience."

Warwickshire College's foundation degree in equine studies, which it runs in partnership with Harper Adams University College in Shropshire, leads the field for employees in stables and riding schools. It is also the only foundation degree in existence that is 100 per cent distance learning.

Warwickshire describes itself as a general FE college with a specialism. While Harper Adams University is very definitely a specialist agricultural college - offering veterinary, horticultural and arboricultural degrees - the partnership is one of equals. The college comfortably reached its target of 30 students by advertising in the specialist press and careers offices and actually has a waiting list.

"Horse riding is a big leisure industry worth pound;3 billion but accessing HE is difficult for people in riding schools and stables," says Tony Cooper, deputy principal. "So we have designed a correspondence course based on CD-Rom technology."

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