Blackpool and The Fylde College has become the third FE college in the country to be granted bachelor’s degree-awarding powers.
The college said on Thursday it was the first in the north west and only the third general FE college in England to secure the prestigious powers of awarding bachelor’s degrees independently, which will give it “greater flexibility” to meet the needs of local employers.
To date, colleges have been able to deliver full higher education programmes in partnership with recognised universities, but usually do not have the power to award bachelor’s degrees in their own right.
Blackpool and The Fylde confirmed its new powers covers an initial period of three years. It also has indefinite powers for awarding foundation degrees and can also validate its own one-year full time or two-year part time certificates of higher education.
Since 2011, some colleges have secured the ability to independently award foundation degrees – two-year stand-alone qualifications at levels 5 and 6 – but only a handful of other FE college groups in England can award level 6 bachelor’s degrees.
Blackpool and The Fylde follows Warwickshire College Group (WCG) – which secured the authority to independently award bachelor’s degrees in 2021 – and the TEC Partnership which includes colleges such as East Riding, Grimsby Institute and Scarborough TEC.
Bev Robinson, principal and chief executive at Blackpool and The Fylde, said it was the culmination of years of work, and added: “It represents a significant milestone in the college’s 130-year history. We are extremely proud of this achievement for our community.”
Robinson said her college would continue to work with its university partner, Lancaster University, as it will remain its primary higher education awarding partner, but use its new bachelor awarding powers to “create niche degrees in response to employer requests for degree level programmes which are not covered by our current relationship with Lancaster University”.
The college said it was not yet able to say specifically what those courses might be, but could be in response to skills gaps and emerging green skills needs.
The awarding powers come after assessment by the Quality Assurance Agency on behalf of the Office for Students.
Since being awarded bachelor’s degree awarding powers last year, WCG has been offering courses in areas such as cybersecurity, graphic design, early years education, performing arts and veterinary.
The TEC Partnership courses include design, criminology and business management among others. Some courses listed on its website – such as applied art and design, and digital film production – are listed for start in September 2023.
WCG’s agreement is listed for September 1, 2021, until December 31, 2024, but with no time limit on granting foundation degrees. TEC’s bachelor’s degree awarding powers run from August 1, 2021 to October 31, 2024, with October 31, 2024 on awarding its foundation degrees. The colleges can apply for full degree awarding powers after that point.
Earlier this month, Multiverse became the first apprenticeship-only provider in England to be handed degree-awarding responsibilities, which means it can now award its own degree apprenticeships.
Like other colleges, training providers can deliver degree apprenticeships, but must have a tie-up with an established university or college that already has degree-awarding powers.