To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what discussions he has had with (a) universities, (b) businesses and (c) further education colleges prior to taking the decision to bring forward legislation to permit further education colleges to apply for the right to award foundation degrees.
The proposals in Clause 17 of the Further Education and Training Bill, to allow Further Education institutions in England to apply for the power to award Foundation Degrees, emerged after informal discussions with a number of interested parties in the further and higher education sectors. These followed up Sir Andrew Foster's recommendation that
"consideration should be given to allowing some colleges, that meet quality criteria, the ability to award their own qualifications, rather than working through awarding bodies".
Officials discussed with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) how these proposals might be taken forward prior to the publication of the Further Education and Training Bill. The views of the Association of Colleges and other representative bodies from the Further Education sector were also sought.
Since publication of the Bill, the Department has undertaken extensive and extremely constructive discussions with a wide range of representatives from the Higher and Further Education sectors, as well as other interested stakeholder bodies. Over thirty written submissions were received in response to a circular letter inviting comment on the proposals; these included responses from a number of Sector Skills Councils and the Council for Industry and Higher Education. Ministers and officials have also maintained frequent contact with sector bodies such as Universities UK and the Association of Colleges, and have also corresponded with representatives from individual institutions in both sectors.