HE consultation welcomed cautiously by Association of Colleges

HE consultation welcomed cautiously by Association of Colleges

A technical consultation paper from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is proposing that FE colleges have more opportunities to provide degree qualifications.

The paper published on August 3rd calls for legislative changes to Degree Awarding Powers, removing the barrier to non-teaching bodies and making them more widely available for FE colleges.

The Association of Colleges is cautious however about the changes outlined in both the technical consultation paper and white paper published previously.

Joy Mercer, AoC’s Director of Education Policy said: “We welcome the desire to streamline the ability of colleges to become awarding organisations for degrees, but we don’t think that there’s enough detail yet even in the technical consultation to see how that will pan out.”

One of the aims of the technical consultation paper is to create a more diverse higher education market and encourage competition between providers.

Mercer said: “At the moment there’s a huge range of different charges that universities make to colleges in order to award their degrees. It can range from 10% of the fees which are charged, up to 30% or 40%.”

we don’t think that there’s enough detail yet even in the technical consultation to see how that will pan out.”

“With competition, it’s opening the market by the providers, it’s opening the market for private providers by awarding degrees, and we think that choice will allow colleges to perhaps be more choosey and to be more competitive.”

The paper also recommends that new powers and influence be given to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

Under the new proposals, FE colleges would have to enter a legally binding agreement with HEFCE in order to receive funding from the council.

In order to maintain this funding, each college would then need to match a set of unique requirements drawn up by HEFCE.

Joy Mercer said: “We’re a little concerned that there will be increased costs of this regulation, but we do also see opportunity.”

“We’re keeping a close eye on the implications for colleges and the trust in Higher Education institutions is something we would like to see replicated in colleges delivering HE.”

A spokesperson from 157 Group, a membership body representing some of the largest colleges in England, said: “We support the government’s move to make Degree Awarding Powers and the university title more widely available to appropriate institutions.

“We hope a fairer and more flexible system will enable more FE colleges to be given such powers. Overall we think it is encouraging that the government is exploring how student support is designated and seeking feedback on lighter touch regulation.”

You can read the BIS Technical Consultation: A new, fit-for-purpose regulatory framework for the Higher Education sector here.