HE White Paper: colleges to receive greater powers to award degrees

Colleges among 'challenger' institutions being given extra powers to compete with universities

Stephen Exley

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New rules will make it easier for FE colleges to award their own degrees, the new higher education White Paper will reveal today.

The measures announced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) will speed up the process by which “challenger” institutions, including colleges, can be granted full taught degree awarding powers.

At present, while 244 colleges in England offer higher education qualifications, only five of them have their own foundation degree-awarding powers. To date, none has been granted the power to award taught degrees

But a Bis briefing released ahead of the publication of the White Paper today outlines plans to “open up the higher education market to greater choice”.

It states: “With barriers such as the requirement that new institutions must have degrees approved by other competitors, high-quality providers are put off from entering a market, which has limited the competition, choice and innovation that students deserve.”

The briefing continues: “New rules will make it easier for the very best institutions to achieve their own degree awarding powers, and streamline the process so that they can get up and running as quickly as possible.”

Measures include allowing providers to apply for full degree awarding powers within three to four years of opening, and “allowing high-quality providers that gain degree awarding providers to gain university title after a further three-year review period”.

Providers will also be allowed to apply for degree awarding powers “on a probationary basis, building up their three-year track record during this period”.

The news was welcomed by Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges.

“Choice, access and quality are the welcome watchwords of the government’s long-awaited plans to open up higher education and to allow more colleges to award HE qualifications,” he said.

“This step change away from the country’s traditional university system will empower more people than ever before to access HE in their local area through a college. It will also provide a wider choice of courses that are linked to employment.

“Students, colleges and employers will welcome these plans, which mean more opportunities for people to access the most suitable and best value higher education courses. This is a particular benefit for those who are employed and want to study part-time.”

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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