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Foundation degree may add to course 'confusion'

THE Government should rethink its proposals for foundation degrees or the new qualification may not meet employers' needs, the Confederation of British Industry says.

Although it agrees with the concept of a two-year, vocationally-based degree course, the CBI says that the current proposal is flawed and "runs the risk of duplicating current provision".

Three-quarters of the 253 firms surveyed said they could see the value of a vocationally-orientated foundation degree but 81 per cent said the current range of sub-

degree qualifications - including higher national certificates and diplomas - was confusing. "There is no clear case for another qualification at this level," the CBI says.

It proposes that the foundation degree should be integrated into a national credit system for higher and further education, making it equivalent to two years' study towards an honours degree.

"This would benefit a large group of people, ranging from some of the 19 per cent who currently drop out of honours courses, to those who only ever wanted an intermediate-level qualification."

Two-thirds of firms surveyed anticipated increased demand for people with degrees, while only 49 per cent expected to take on people with sub-degree qualifications. The CBI says that it may even reduc the pressure to make full honours degrees more vocationally-focused.

But despite their reservations about aspects of the foundation degree, CBI members strongly support it in principle. Seventy-five per cent said that they were likely or very likely to encourage staff to study for the new qualification, 81 per cent would allow work-based assessment or accreditation and 67 per cent would offer work-placements.

John Roberts, chairman of the CBI's education and training affairs committee, said: "The broad objectives of the foundation degree are right. But there is a danger that it is not being properly thought through.

"Unless the Government takes the time to make sure that the new qualification truly meets the long-term needs of employers and students alike, it could well end up as a good idea badly implemented."

Although foundation degrees will be funded and awarded through universities, colleges are expected to deliver a large proportion of them and they are seen as crucial in the Government's drive to recruit 700,000 people into further education over the next two years. A DFEE-appointed working party of representatives from further and higher education is working on the delivery and content of the new qualification, which will be piloted from September.

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