FE colleges hit back at claims that higher education provision is 'failing'

Darren Evans

The Association of Colleges has hit back at reports that almost a third of FE colleges offering degrees have been failed by inspectors.

It was reported last week that nearly 30 per cent of colleges offering HE courses have failed reviews by higher education watchdog the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). But the AoC said it was “inaccurate” to say that so many colleges were failing.

Earlier this year the QAA introduced a new review system for degree courses in FE colleges that set the same expectations and used the same judgements as the system applied to universities. Since then 45 FE colleges have been reviewed, with 41 reports published, as well as two universities.

Each report contains judgements on four main areas: academic standards, the quality of learning opportunities, the enhancement of learning opportunities, and the quality of information produced by the provider on the higher education it offers.

The QAA told TES that 14 out of the 45 FE colleges did not meet expectations or required improvement in at least one of the four judgement areas.

However, a spokeswoman said: “It is a question of how the stats are interpreted. An FE college that has achieved three positive judgements and one ‘requires improvement’ judgement might not see itself, or be perceived by others, as a ‘failing’ college.”

Nick Davy, HE policy manager for the AoC, said: “The line that 30 per cent of colleges have failed is technically inaccurate.

“It is impossible to compare with the universities at this stage because only two universities have been through the process. 

“However, several colleges have ‘need to improve’ judgements and AoC is working with QAA to help colleges understand the process fully.”

The QAA said that as not all the reports have been published, the review process is not yet complete and the figures may be subject to change. A detailed analysis of the review outcomes, areas of good practice and emerging issues will be provided in December 2014, it said.

The news comes just two months after FE colleges offering degrees topped a student satisfaction poll.

Some 12 FE colleges were among the top 20 providers of HE courses rated by overall student satisfaction in a poll by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

It led to calls for more FE colleges to be granted degree-awarding status.

Last month Warwickshire College became only the fourth FE college in England to be granted degree-awarding powers.

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Amp up our higher powers, say colleges - August 2014

FE colleges top higher education student satisfaction poll - August 2014

Warwickshire College gains degree-awarding powers - September 2014



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