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									Appendix 8


1. INTRODUCTION This Report considers the analysis and evaluation of Foundation Degrees undertaken as part of the Annual Monitoring process for the academic year 2004 – 05. The University approves a range of Foundation Degrees (FDs) many of which are delivered in association with Regional Partner Institutions (RPIs). A number of FDs are not offered on either of the University’s core campuses, but are delivered solely in RPIs.


STUDENT PROFILES The numbers of students recruited to FDs varies significantly across the range of degrees offered. In the majority of cases numbers recruited into Year 1 tends to range between 10 – 25 students although a small number recruit in excess of 25 students. It is noticeable from a number of reports that applicants to FDs have a much more diverse range of qualifications than those of the more ‘traditional’ applicant. In some cases the majority of entrants were classified as ‘other’ in terms of entry qualifications. There is limited evidence that the FDs are attracting students who would not otherwise have considered accessing HE. One report stated ‘ FD provision, and the associated widening participation, is likely to mean that more support is required …’. There is a significant variation in age with some programmes recruiting predominantly from the 18 -25 range while others have ranges from 18 – 55. This variation is normally explained by the nature of the programme being offered with the former profile being associated with full-time courses and the latter with parttime routes where the majority (or even all) students are in employment. The gender balance also varies by programme with some cohorts being 100% female and others where the majority of students are male. This variation can again be explained by the nature of the programme concerned and there is little evidence that gender balances are atypical. However, a number of reports do indicate that efforts are being made to attract either more males or females to specific programmes. A number of reports also indicate that Anglia’s student profile for FD students reflect national patterns. There is significant variation in participation by ethnic minority groups largely reflecting the ethnic balance of the local population. The highest proportion of ethnic minority students noted in any cohort was 33%. The retention rates for Year 1 students causes some concern on a number of programmes. The numbers of students who do not complete Year 1, or proceed


to Year 2, of their chosen programme is frequently in the region of 25% although in one case it reached 39%. The reasons given for this relatively high attrition rate are remarkably similar across degrees and include:      Difficulties in coping with the demands of entering higher education; Transition to independent learning; The academic demands of the programme; Financial problems; Domestic and/or personal issues.

There is limited evidence that retention rates are higher for full-time than for parttime students. One report, for example, indicated a retention rate of 77% for fulltime students and 67% for part-time students. This variation is perhaps not unexpected but needs to be monitored. Course teams have recognised this as an issue and many are actively seeking ways of improving retention rates. There was only one case where student withdrawal was as a result of dissatisfaction with the programme. There is a general recognition that many students on FDs, particularly those who have not participated in education recently, require additional levels of student support. There is evidence that this was provided for FDs which recruited for the first time in 2004, and this provision will be augmented for the new intake in 2005. This support frequently takes the form of additional tutorials and study skills sessions. It is, however, encouraging to note the very high levels of completion of students who progress beyond Year 1 with many programmes having completion rates of 100% and the majority falling between 90 – 100%. In the case of FDs where students have completed there is evidence that a significant proportion progress to an appropriate honours degree programme. It is also clear that FD graduates who progress in this way perform as well as students following the three year degree programme. There is some comment that the work-based learning element of the FD has proved particularly useful to these students.


ACADEMIC STANDARDS There is evidence from reports that the Aims and Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) for FDs are generally being met. This is supported by comments made by external examiners who have specific responsibility for FDs and by the two QAA FD Reviews which were held in 2005. Two quotes from external examiner reports may be of relevance here: ‘the programmes are very contemporary in nature’ and ‘the content and structure of the course is clearly designed around vocational needs withan appropriate level of academic underpinning’. External examiners also comment that the programmes meet the Defining Characteristics of FDs, a view endorsed by the two QAA Reviews. Many reports cover a wide range of pathways and the FD may only be a small part of the total provision. In such cases external examiners frequently make no


direct reference to FD provision while others may make a passing reference as the role of the Set Assessment Panel external examiner (tier 1) is to report on the module and standards achieved, irrespective of the pathway to which those modules contribute. The external examiner reports raise no concerns with regard to academic standards. For the same reasons, it is not possible to assess the level of performance of FD students (outside the core modules) from assessment panel data in areas of relatively complex provision. Where module performance analysis has been possible then the mean mark for the vast majority of modules lies between 50 – 65%. Where the mean mark falls outside this range there is evidence that module leaders and others have addressed the issue or provided a clear explanation of why a particular module proved problematic or resulted in a mean greater than 65%. In one report it was observed that the reason for the poor mean mark in one module was that students had difficulties with analytical writing and that this would be addressed through additional study-skills sessions and was not expected to be a recurring problem.


QUALITY OF EDUCATION There is evidence that FD students studying in a variety of modes are represented on Course/Pathway Committees or similar bodies at RPIs. The comments made by students have been largely favourable and supportive except in a small number of cases where a high level of dis-satisfaction was apparent. In these cases the issues were treated seriously by staff and action taken to resolve the issues. In one case a decision was taken to dis-continue the provision in its current format. One issue which did emerge from a number of meetings was that students wanted to discuss progression routes at a relatively early stage in their programme. This emphasises the importance of having appropriate progression routes in place at the point of approval of FDs. Module evaluations appear to be completed and action taken as appropriate. One feature of Year 1, semester 1 module evaluations was the frequency of requests for additional tutorial support (see paragraph 2). Work-Based Learning (WBL) is a key element of any FD and it is evident from reports that WBL is undertaken in many different ways across the FD provision. In the case of full-time provision the WBL element may take the form of a formal placement in an appropriate employment sector, or it may include elements of a student’s current part-time employment if it is considered appropriate. The majority of part-time students are in employment or self-employment and use this to undertake the WBL element of the programme. However, not all employers are sympathetic to this, or some students may not want their employer to know that they are following the programme, and in such cases staff assist students in finding appropriate WBL opportunities. There is evidence of strong relationships developing between pathway/course teams and employers and one report indicated that the FD provided ‘a good transfer of theory into practice and vice-versa’ The diversity of WBL approaches across the provision is encouraging but needs to be more clearly highlighted in future reports.


There was relatively little in the reports regarding the assessment of the WBL element and, in particular, the extent to which employers are involved in the assessment of WBL. This is an issue which external agencies are considering closely and the delivery and assessment of WBL featured extensively in one of the QAA Reviews. The University may wish to develop a clear policy on the delivery of WBL as it relates particularly to FDs. Students believe that the quality of teaching is generally good and that staff are approachable, accessible and supportive. However, there were some negative comments regarding the quality of feedback on assessed work. It was acknowledged that some was very good but some feedback was cursory and of little value. This comment was also made by some external examiners although it was not always clear whether the comment applied to the FD or to the provision as a whole. A number of reports indicated that students had problems with the FD core modules and found it difficult to see their relevance to their particular employment. It was reported that there was a significant degree of overlap and repetition between core modules. [This has been recognised by the University and a revised core providing a greater degree of autonomy to course teams has been put in place for 2006].


QUALITY ENHANCEMENT Action Plans were attached to reports as were responses to the majority of Action Plans for the previous year. In cases where the report referred only to the FD provision then the Action Plans tended to identify themes which were relatively consistent across the FD provision. These included:     Action on improving recruitment particularly among the lower recruiting programmes; Improving the retention rate among Year 1 students; Responding to external examiner comments particularly relating to consistency of feedback; Enhancing communication between the University and RPIs.

Where the report considered a wider range of provision very few Action Plans made any reference to the FD provision specifically. The actions identified may have encompassed FDs but this could not be ascertained from the Plan. Similarly, information on academic standards and the quality of education was much easier to obtain where external examiners had been appointed specifically to take responsibility for FD provision. Where external examiners had responsibility across a wide range of modules and awards it was not uncommon to find no references to the FD provision in their reports. Consideration should be given to ensuring that one or more of a team of external examiners has responsibility for dealing with FD issues, including WBL. In the case of a small number of programmes there seem to be issues of consistency of delivery between members of the regional partnership. This was commented on in one external examiner’s report and on another occasion was identified as an issue by a member of the managing Faculty’s senior staff. In both these cases the matter is being dealt with in an appropriate manner.


A number of reports identify continuing problems of communication between the University and RPIs and this has been identified in Action Plans (see above).


CONCLUSIONS The University and its RPIs offer a range of FDs across the region. The evidence from Annual Monitoring Reports indicates that these programmes are generally well managed, have appropriate academic standards and provide a good quality learning experience for students. There do not appear to be any significant problems with the FD provision in general but there are several areas where the quality of provision could be enhanced. i) Given the current high profile of Foundation Degrees it is important that the achievement of the Defining Characteristics for FDs can be demonstrated. Consideration be given to appointing external examiners who have specific responsibility for FDs and, in particular, for the WBL element. That where FDs form part of a complex programme specific reference is made to the FDs in the Annual Monitoring Report. Develop the WBL element to include employers in the delivery and assessment of the WBL element of the degrees. Monitor carefully and improve the retention rate among Year 1 students. Where necessary improve communication between the University and RPIs responsible for the delivery of FDs to ensure a higher level of consistency across the provision.






David Kinnear April 2006 (amended)


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