Newcastle College Group and New College Durham are the first FE colleges to be granted Foundation Degree awarding powers in England.
The announcement last week follows an intensive scrutiny process by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
Stephen Jackson, Director of Reviews at the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) told FE Week: “After working with Newcastle College and New College Durham and carefully considering the evidence, we were assured about the quality of student experience that each college provides, and their systems and procedures for establishing and maintaining academic standards.”
The development is a significant breakthrough for the Further Education sector and allows both New College Durham and Newcastle College Group to validate the foundation degrees which they currently offer.
Dame Jackie Fisher, Chief Executive of Newcastle College Group, told FE Week: “We are delighted to be able to award our own Foundation Degrees.
“Foundation Degree awarding powers creates a platform for us to forge ahead with our plans for Taught Degree awarding powers and gives us the opportunity to provide students with degrees that will give them the skills to get jobs and progress in their careers.”
Newcastle College Group plans to develop new degrees which satisfy national industry demands, such as jobs in the renewable energy sector.
The college is the country’s largest provider of Higher Education in an FE environment and offers more than 85 Foundation and Honours Degrees.
Newcastle College Group recently announced that it would charge a maximum of £5,800 for HE tuition fees, a figure significantly lower than that of many rival HE institutions.
FE Week has since spoken to Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable, who said: “Foundation degrees have grown in popularity in recent years, with around 100,000 students enrolled in them last year. We want to increase the study choices for students by enabling FE colleges to offer higher education qualifications; they can often do so in a more flexible way.”
Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “I am delighted that the first two further education colleges have now been awarded foundation degree awarding powers. We want to ensure that institutions offering high quality work-focussed degrees can compete on a level playing field for prospective students.”