How to develop a foundation degree

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					How to Develop a Foundation Degree

This guide is aimed at people in businesses, public sector employers, Sector
Skills Councils, universities and colleges who want advice or support in
designing and setting up a foundation degree. It offers information on:

   who needs to be involved
   researching the market
   how to design the programme to meet the needs of employers
   how to make sure it runs successfully and students achieve as much as
    they can
   quality assurance issues
   funding to set up and run foundation degrees, and to pay for tuition

The guide has plenty of examples to help you translate the theory into
practice. They are not intended as models of best practice, but as illustrations,
so you can adapt them to meet your particular circumstances. They have
come from the plans of those already involved in FDs, case studies from the
Association of Colleges, and other sources.

At various points throughout the guide there are sets of questions to consider,
to prompt you as you set about developing your foundation degree.

Section 1: Laying the foundations:

Getting the partnership right
Who can develop a foundation degree?
Different players can take the initiative in setting up a foundation degree. The
following table illustrates the types of organisation and their possible reasons
for doing so:

Organisations                                        Reasons for getting involved

Individual companies or                              They need to develop current
organisations (private, public or                    employees or to improve the
voluntary), either acting individually               abilities, understanding and
or with the support of their Sector                  knowledge of future recruits.
Skills Council.
Sector Skills Councils
Individual Sector Skills Councils,                  They have identified a current or
recognised as the experts on                        projected future skills need in the
employers’ skills needs in a given                  industry or employment sector.

Higher education institutions
Universities and other institutions of               The qualification will help to meet
higher education                                    a demand from students and/or
                                                    employers in the local area or

Further education colleges
Colleges and other institutions that                The qualification will help to meet a
deliver further education                           demand from students and/or
                                                    employers in the local area or

Other organisations
A number of other organisations                     The qualification will help to meet a
could take the initiative in setting up             particular need.
a foundation degree, such as
employer groups, professional
bodies, trade associations or local

Core partners

A foundation degree must be developed through a partnership between
education institutions and employers, and two core types of partner are
always required.

      A Higher Education institution (HEI) with degree-awarding powers
       will be needed for validation and quality assurance, although this
       requirement may be met via ‘Foundation Degree Forward’ ,once
       established, in cases where an FE college is driving the development
       of a FD without a local HE partner. The HEI will often contribute to the
       design of the FD and to aspects of its delivery. The HEI must also
       make sure that graduates have the opportunity to use their full FD
       credit towards the completion of at least one specific honours degree if
       they chose to do so.

      Employers are involved from the start of the design process. They
       help to make sure that the foundation degree meets the needs of their
       industry and that students will develop the skills they need. Typically,
       they contribute to the design and approval of programmes and work-
       based modules; they help to assess learning outcomes; and they
       provide facilities for work-based learning. Some employers may wish to
       develop their own foundation degree for their employees.

Other partners

Other organisations that will be involved in FD development and delivery
partnerships include:

      FE colleges and other organisations can take on some or all of the
       design, development and delivery of the foundation degree. FE
       colleges in particular often have a central role locally, especially in
       delivery, and are likely to feature in most, if not all, foundation degrees.

      Sector Skills Councils are influential employer bodies. They are
       experts in their sector. Labour market analyses undertaken by Sector
       Skills Councils identify skills gaps that a foundation degree might
       address. Sector Skills Councils can help to develop the foundation
       degree and promote it among potential students, employers and
       employees. Their endorsement of a foundation degree is likely to be a
       critical factor in its success, so they should be involved from the start
       where the foundation degree is in a sector covered by a Sector Skills

      Professional bodies play an important role in helping to promote the
       foundation degree with employers, reinforcing the value of the
       qualification. They may also be actively involved in the design and
       review of programmes. They can help to establish relationships
       between the foundation degree and professional qualifications or
       membership of their own organisation.

Lessons from the prototypes.
For colleges and universities, a key lesson from the first foundation degrees is
to make sure that employers are involved and fully committed to the
development from the start. Lack of, or diminishing, employer involvement
from employers can lead to problems in recruiting students or in delivering
certain parts of the course, or to concerns that the content is not meeting
business needs.

Employers designing their own foundation degrees should also find their
partners at an early stage. It is important to draw on the expertise of colleges
and universities in designing courses and qualifications, delivering degree
programmes, and assuring quality and standards, from the start.

Example 1

The foundation degree in Creative Digital Broadcasting is being offered
through Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication. It is supported
by employers, a Sector Skills Council and professional bodies as well as
validating HEIs. In the field of broadcasting, companies such as Carlton TV
and Pearsons Television, as well as Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for
Broadcast, Film, Video and Multi-Media, help to shape provision and are part
of an industry and work-based learning group. A range of employers – small
and medium sized businesses, large employers such as IBM and hospital
trusts - and professional bodies are all supporting the foundation degree, both
in its development phase and through work experience.

Key questions:

Which organisations should be involved?

Who will validate the foundation degree?

Who will provide opportunities for work-based learning opportunities and work

Who will deliver the academic part of the course?

How will we get employer/HEI/college involvement and how do we keep them
on board?

Setting up and managing the partnership
Successful partnerships are based on a shared agenda, careful planning, and
sound communication. Although this guide does not attempt to cover the
issue in depth, three aspects of partnership management are worth

      Partnerships work best when every partner gets some significant
       benefit from their involvement, and when every partner recognises that
       their contribution is valued.

      Partnership agreements (or memorandum of co-operation) should be
       drawn up and agreed as early as possible. These agreements should
       set out the procedures for allocating funding, staffing and resources,
       the roles of each partner and quality issues. Formal contracts should
       be drawn up and signed by each partner before the partnership begins.

      Changes to any aspect of the foundation degree programme must be
       agreed by all partners.

Some established foundation degree partnerships have published partnership
packs and contractual documentation for their partnership agreements. One
example was developed by foundation4success, and is on their website -
If you are new to partnerships and would like an in-depth look at how to set-up
a partnership successfully, the HEFCE publication 00/54, indirectly funded
partnerships: codes of practice for franchise and consortia arrangements
gives a lot of useful information. It is available on HEFCE’s website -

The Quality Assurance Agency’s (QAA’s) Code of practice contains a section
on ‘collaborative provision’. It is available on QAA’s website -

The Council of Validating Universities (CVU) has also published a Handbook
for Practitioners which gives advice and guidance on creating robust
procedures and good practice for organisations in partnerships. It is published
on their website -

Example 2:

For the New Media Design foundation degree validated by Manchester
Metropolitan University, a memorandum of co-operation sets out the terms
and conditions of the partnership arrangement. All major decisions are taken
by their Foundation Degree Steering Group, which consists of the project
manager, two representatives from each of the partner institutions and
representatives from industry. There are a number of sub-groups which feed
into the steering group.

Alongside this structure they have run a number of events such as employer
meetings and curriculum design days.

Key questions:

What is each partner getting out of participating in the project? How will they
maintain their commitment through to the end?

How will the partnership be managed? Who makes decisions, and how?

Are the roles and responsibilities of each partner clear?

Are all the costs identified and apportioned?

Has an action plan been devised, with timescales?

Have all the partners formally committed themselves to the project?
Getting the research right
For a foundation degree to succeed, it must meet the needs of employers for
employees - existing staff and future employees - with the right qualifications.
It must also meet the needs of students for the knowledge, skills and
understanding that employers want and which lay the foundation for future
learning. Employers designing their own foundation degree will want to know
that it meets future skills needs as well as current ones. [Students will want to
know it offers them real prospects….]

This will mean that sound research is needed. Given the wide range of
students that enrol on foundation degrees, research will usually need to
consider both local and national labour markets.

Current courses
A useful way to start might be to find out whether other similar foundation
degree courses already exist. The UCAS website ( has a
comprehensive list of all full-time higher education courses, set out by subject
and by geographical area. Information on PT-courses in not centrally held at

Labour market intelligence and training/education
Many employers will have their own data. In addition, a comprehensive range
of labour market information is available at both national and local levels from
a range of sources and much is available on the web. The following are
particularly helpful:

   The Government’s statistics website,, provides
    information that, amongst other things, can help to identify the likely supply
    of students with the necessary pre-entry skills and qualifications for any
    particular foundation degree.

   The NOMIS website on contains a wide range of
    official labour market statistics.

   DfES has its own skills and labour market information website, This contains a considerable database of
    useful information.

   The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) data archive contains
    summaries of all the research it has funded and the associated outputs
    back to 1985. the address is

   One_Stop, a skills intelligence gateway managed by the Sector Skills
    Development Agency, is available on One_Stop
    provides links to skills and economic information from a variety of online
    sources - well over 70 websites.

These and other sites contain both primary, survey information that can be
analysed in different ways, and secondary information from other sources that
has already been synthesised and analysed.

Useful primary information includes:

The Labour Force Survey, a quarterly sample survey that covers around
190,000 households each year. Amongst other things, it obtains information
on the qualifications of people in different occupational groups. This is
available through the Government’s statistics website and NOMIS.

The Annual Employment Survey, a survey of employees which gives detailed
employment counts for every local area down to ward level. This is available
from the Government’s statistics website and NOMIS.

The General Household Survey, an annual survey of about 13,000
households. Its information includes the highest qualification by gender and
socio-economic group and economic activity by age and highest qualification
(by gender). This information can be seen on;

Secondary information:

 - available through Skillsbase includes:
   Skills in England Research Report 2001- This two-volume report provides
    an overview of the key issues and challenges facing people in delivering
    skills and a review of the evidence of changing skill requirements at
    sectoral and local level
   Sector Skills dialogues - a series of consultations with all major industrial
    and business sectors leading to the production of skills assessments for
    each of these broad sectors
   Employer Skill Surveys
   Projections of Occupations and Qualifications
   Leaning and Training and Work
   Education and Training Statistics for the United Kingdom
   Participation in Education and Training by Young People Aged 16 and 17
    in Each Local Area and Region, England

- available through the Government’s statistics website includes:
   Regional Trends, a comprehensive annual source of official statistics
    about life in the regions, including industrial and economic indicators
   Social Trends, a picture of contemporary British society, including labour
    market issues
   Labour Market Trends, a comprehensive selection of labour market
Example 3

The proposal for the New Media Design foundation degree in Manchester
was based on sound labour market intelligence, a key research report from
the Manchester Institute of Popular Culture and initial meetings with
employers, employer organisations and colleges.

Regional and sector plans
Many regional and sector organisations make their own detailed labour
market assessments, including forecasts for the near future. These are used
to identify their priorities for action and help in their planning processes.
Their plans and forecasts provide a good basis for assessing whether a
foundation degree could be needed in a particular subject. Important sources

   information from Sector Skills Councils, which can be found on One_Stop
    (see above).
   Frameworks for Employment and Skills Action (FRESAs), which are plans
    agreed by Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and their partners to
    address the skills and employment needs of the region. FRESAs can be
    found on RDA websites which are listed at the back of this guide.
   plans that are produced both nationally and locally by the Learning and
    Skills Council.

Example 4

Teesside is home to some of the world’s largest chemical players: ICI,
Dupont, BP, Amoco, Terra and Huntsman, among others. Although there is a
wealth of potential for chemical technology in Teesside, companies operating
in the area are continuously meeting brick walls when trying to recruit suitably
qualified staff. The increased demand for young, qualified technicians needed
in the industry has led to the creation of the Chemical Technology Foundation
Degree at the University of Teesside.

Key questions:

What gap will your proposed foundation degree fill?

How do you know that employers need people with your proposed foundation
degree now and in the future?

Who is your foundation degree aimed at – what obstacles might they face in
accessing your course?

How do you know that there are likely to be enough suitably qualified students
to justify developing your foundation degree?
Section 2: Designing the foundation

Getting the framework right
The five core features
There is no single model for the foundation degree – any more than there is
for an honours degree. The curriculum design and teaching methods are
determined by the partners developing the course. Those experienced in
designing courses will be familiar with much of this section.

There are, five core features that, taken together, make a foundation degree
different from other qualifications and degrees. The table below captures the
current articulation of these features, although the detail in column 2 may be
revised in the light of the evaluations of the prototypes and early FD

1. Employer involvement           in the design and regular review of programmes

                                  to achieve recognition from employer and professional bodies

                                  both with local organisations and national sector bodies to establish
                                  demand for Fd programmes

2. The development of skills,     technical and work-specific skills, relevant to the sector
   understanding and
   knowledge                      underpinned by rigorous and broad-based academic learning

                                  key skills in communication, team working, problem solving,
                                  application of number, use of information technology and improving
                                  own learning and performance

                                  generic skills such as reasoning and work process management

                                  should be recorded by transcript, validated by the awarding HEI and
                                  underpinned by a personal development plan

3. Application of skills in the   students must demonstrate their skills in work relevant to the area of
   workplace                      study

                                  students should be given enough work experience should be
                                  sufficient to develop an understanding of the world of work and it
                                  should be validated, assessed and recorded

                                  the awarding HEIs should award credits, with exemptions for
                                 students with relevant work experience

4. Credit accumulation and       foundation degrees should attract at least 240 credits, 120 at level 1
   transfer                      and 120 at level 2

                                 individual partnerships should agree and apply credit accumulation
                                 and transfer arrangements

                                 individual partnerships should recognise relevant prior and work-
                                 based learning by awarding credits

5. Progression – within work     there must be guaranteed articulation arrangements with a least one
   and/or to an honours degree   honours degree

                                 programmes must make clear the subsequent arrangements for
                                 progression to honours degrees and to professional qualifications or
                                 higher-level NVQs

More information on the general characteristics of foundation degrees can be
found in the Foundation degree: qualification benchmark produced by the
Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in England (QAA). This acts
as a reference point, showing the distinct characteristics of the foundation
degree. It is available on QAA’s website:

The design of the foundation degree
Within the Framework for higher education qualifications, the foundation
degree is an intermediate level qualification. (Information on the framework
can be found on QAA’s website at

Units of learning
There are many variations in the design and delivery of foundation degrees
but most are designed around a range of modules or units. Each module
allows a student to achieve certain ‘learning outcomes’. These make clear
what it what it is that the student will know, understand and be able to do, on
successful completion of the module(see below under ‘Content’).

Students may have their own learning programmes made up of some
compulsory modules and some optional ones.

Example 5

Students on the Early-Years sector endorsed foundation degree can choose
modules to help them work in playwork settings, or modules to help them
work in early years care and education, or modules to help them work as
teaching assistants.

Models and examples
A number of generic foundation degree models have been developed and
successfully implemented. The example below was developed by the
foundation4success partnership.

If we look at level 1, core skills modules account for a minimum of 30 credits
(unshaded). Specialist modules account for a minimum of 60 credits (shaded).
A further 30 credits can be either core skills modules or specialist modules
according to individual needs (part shaded).

The 120 credits are delivered through a combination of academic study at
college or university, and work-based learning. A minimum of 30 credits are
delivered through work-based learning.

                                      Level 1

    Core skills                    Work-                     Specialist skills / knowledge

     30 credits                  30 credits                            60 credits
     points min                  points min                            points min

                                        Level 2

    Core skills                    Work-                     Specialist skills /knowledge

     30 credits                  30 credits                            60 credits
     points min                  points min                            points min

Each of the two levels equates to a year’s full time study. The modules in year
two normally require and lead to a greater depth of knowledge, understanding
and ability than those in year one.

Example 7

The Information and Communication Enabling Technologies foundation degree, validated by
the University of Lincoln, has the following framework.

                                        Level 1
The programme consists of 10 modules of learning, each worth 12 credits. Two modules (ie
24 credits) consist of core skills. The remaining modules cover specialist skill areas. Students
select the modules that best suit their career aspirations and jobs from a larger menu.
Students can choose to take between one and three modules of work-based learning.

                                            Level 2

The programme consists of 10 units, each worth 12 credits. Two modules (ie 24 credits)
consist of core skills. The remaining modules cover specialist skill areas. Students select the
modules that best suit their career aspirations and jobs from a larger menu. Students can
choose to take between one and three modules of work-based learning.

Awarding bodies and other suppliers
Some awarding bodies may eventually offer ready-made foundation degree
qualifications for local delivery. Usually content can be varied to suit local
circumstances. For example in a few years’ time Edexcel is likely to offer
foundation degrees in the way that it currently offers HNDs.

Some Sector Skills Councils and other sector bodies will soon be developing
frameworks for foundation degrees. The frameworks will set out the learning
outcomes and standards which students need to achieve to meet the needs of
employers. Partnerships can then develop their courses around the

National employers
Some major national employers may want to design their own nationally
applicable foundation degree for local delivery. Some or all of the content,
delivery arrangements and learning outcomes will be decided nationally. (See
below for quality assurance implications).

An existing framework
If you want to develop a national model which can be tailored for local
delivery, it might be useful to look at the Statement of Requirement for the
Early Years sector-endorsed foundation degree. This is similar to a sector
framework. It sets out the content and delivery that every Early Years sector
foundation degree must contain to achieve recognition. It assists universities
and their FE college and employer partners to design their Early Years
foundation degrees so that they meet the needs of the sector. Copies can be
obtained from DfES Publications, E-mail, (tel 0845 60
555 60) quoting reference EyStatofReq
Key questions to consider:

What is the best design framework for your specific foundation degree? Does
one already exist?

How many credits should be awarded at each level?

How many modules are needed?

Getting the content right
It is important to work out the learning outcomes you want from the start. In
other words, it must be clear what students will be able to do, what they will
know, and what they will understand at the end of the foundation degree
course. It is in this aspect of the design that employers have a key role. If FDs
are to be successful then the learning outcomes must equip students to be
successful and make a valuable contribution in the workplace. Well respected
employers, Sector Skills Councils, and others with a sound knowledge of
employers’ requirements, can all help others to see that the learning
outcomes students will achieve will meet their needs.

National Occupational Standards
In many sectors, National Occupational Standards have been set. They spell
out what can be done by a competent employee in a particular occupation so
they will help you make sure that your FD learning outcomes will equip your
students to make an impact in the workplace.

National Occupational Standards are developed by Sector Skills Councils and
other appropriate bodies with strong employer representation. They underpin
all approved vocational qualifications including National Vocational
Qualifications (NVQs).To find out about National Occupational Standards in a
particular occupational area, contact the relevant sector officer at the
Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). QCA’s website address is

Example 7

The Early Years Sector-Endorsed foundation degree is designed to lead to
work for senior practitioners working in Early Years settings in care and

The learning outcomes of the foundation degree have been compiled by the
sector itself. Most are taken from National Occupational Standards that
underpin the relevant NVQ/SVQ qualifications, and a few new standards have
been added.

Other standards
National Occupational Standards are not the only standards that can apply.
Many occupations have other laid down criteria which employees must meet
to work successfully in a given field or occupation.

Example 8

When KLM UK Engineering got involved with the aircraft engineering
foundation degree it was actively trying to improve its training provision. The
Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) dictates certain standards for licensing
engineers so KLM UK Engineering needed to be sure the training it offered
met those standards. As part of the degree development team, the company
was able to ensure that the course syllabus met not only industry needs and
academic requirements, but also those of the JAA.

Key questions to consider:

What do people with foundation degrees need to be able to do in the

What skills, knowledge and understanding do they need to be able to
What recognised standards already exist?

Getting the delivery right
Staff in HEIS and FECs with experience in designing courses will be very familiar
with most of the ideas in this section, although the work-based element of FDS and
the flexible approaches to delivery may present issues if you are new to developing
that type of programme.

Learning and teaching
Once the outcomes are clearly understood, the next step is to make sure the
methods of learning and teaching are appropriate. There are four key

   Making sure work-based and academic learning reinforce and build on
    each other as the programme progresses. Reinforcement is a key
    ingredient in running foundation degrees successfully.
   Providing a mix of learning and teaching methods. People and
    organisations delivering the course will have different approaches to
    learning and teaching, and students have different learning styles which
    need to be accommodated.
   Making sure that what students learn is relevant to what they do in the
   Giving students the opportunity to manage and shape their own learning.

Example 9

Students on the Professional Photography Foundation Degree validated by
the Arts Institute of Bournemouth are gaining the skills and experience they
need to work in an industry largely made up of small companies and self-
employed freelancers. In addition to learning about theoretical aspects,,
students benefit from work experience managed by the course’s workplace
co-ordinator and opportunities to work on both ‘live’ and simulated
photography briefs.
Online and distance learning

Online and distance learning offers considerable flexibility for students,
especially if they are in work or who have other commitments. Making these
options available shows that a university’s or college has a commitment to
these students. Online learning can:

   help students improve their ICT skills
   allow students to learn at times that suit them and their employers
   give students the opportunity to take part in programmes that are not
    based near their home
   help students access a range of information to support their learning, for
    example through the web
   encourage students to participate in interactive learning with other
    students and tutors

When building in online and distance learning remember that students will
have different levels of IT skills,. Their level of skills may need to be assessed
and they may need specific training to address any weaknesses. And they
will need access to IT facilities at convenient times so establish whether
facilities may be available through an employer, or by loaning lap-top
computers, or through some other means.

Example 10

The new foundation degree in Business Finance and Law at Huddersfield
University has been developed with the aid of local small businesses. It has
been designed with flexibility in mind, enabling students to fit study into their
day-to-day lives.

The courses are very employer-focused and can be studied full or part time.
Some do not even require students to go to college as the work can be done
through the internet instead. Martin Walsh, a partner in a small architectural
and civil engineering consultancy, feels that foundation degrees are perfect
for small businesses like his. ‘The lectures happen outside working hours, so I
don’t have to worry about employing more staff while someone is out

Work-based learning and mentors

The workplace is just as important for learning as the classroom or lecture
theatre. In the workplace employed students can improve their skills and
knowledge without losing large amounts of their personal or working time. The
learning that they do there can often involve genuine workplace problems and
challenges. Line managers need to be involved so that students are able to
undertake the work-based learning in ways which contribute to the business
rather than disrupting it.
It should be recognised that students need adequate support for their work-
based learning, just as they require tutors or lecturers for academic learning.
Work place mentors can fulfil that role. Mentors may be skilled and
experienced colleagues, supervisors, or others, who are equipped to help
students to learn and to grow. Some employers may be unfamiliar with
mentoring, though. Work placements are likely to need support from the HEI
or college to make sure that they are effective and that the link between work-
based learning and academic learning is reinforced.

Work-based learning should not be confused with work placements. A work
placement can simply be a programme of work experience, and many
placements do not provide opportunities for accredited learning. They may,
however, contribute towards the membership requirements of a professional
body or towards a licence to practice.

Example 11

The foundation4success consortium defines work-based learning as
“that learning which arises from reflection on experiences based on
activities in the workplace. It will, in general, have negotiated outcomes
relevant to the nature and purposes of the workplace and the personal
and professional development of the individual. The learning achieved
will include underpinning knowledge, understanding and practice and
will be tailored to meet the needs of students and the workplace.”

The outcomes of this work-based learning provide a basis for assessing the
student’s achievements. Negotiated learning agreements (see below under
‘Programmes’ ) are drawn up for each student’s work-based learning, setting
out what they have to do to achieve the outcomes.

The student’s achievements are assessed by a variety of assessment
activities or reflective assignments. Credits are awarded depending on how
far the student has achieved the outcomes. These credits form part of the
total assessment for the foundation degree. In all of the foundation degrees
awarded by foundation4success, work-based learning accounts for at least
30 credit points at level 1 and 30 at level 2.

Mentors are an important feature of most students’ learning programmes.
Mentors are not involved in the formal assessment process but offer support
and guidance when it is needed. They discuss and comment on the students’
progress and are a vital link between their employment and education.

For students who are not in a suitable job, ‘industrial hosted programmes’ are
used. These operate as follows:

   students are matched in groups of three or four to a suitable local
   the organisation provides a business issue that the students can address
    and resolve
   this is done on a consultancy basis within the hours provided for work-
    based learning
   each student is assessed individually on the basis of their negotiated
    learning agreement
   the projects chosen normally relate to the practical application of the
    theory and principles covered by at least one of the modules studied on
    the course
   the project draws upon, where possible, integrated learning that has
    occurred on the course.

Programme staff administer and assess the work-based learning element of
the foundation degree. This usually consists of setting assignments to be
done in the workplace, and providing tutorial support.

QAA’s Code of practice (see below) contains a section on placement learning.
It is available on QAA’s website at

Example 12

The New Media Design Foundation Degree in Manchester is delivered
through seminars, lectures, group tutorials, project and work-based learning.
Employers are directly involved in the learning. For example, multi-disciplinary
teams are used in work-based ‘live’ industry projects, set and assessed by
established practitioners alongside course tutors.

Academic tutors

Given that a proportion of the learning will take place away from the HEI or
college, contact between students and academic tutors needs to be given
particular attention. There must be arrangements to give students adequate
access to tutors at suitable times and in a variety of ways.

Peer group support

Students gain considerable insights from each other, and mutual support can
be invaluable, especially in difficult times. E-mail communication, video-
conferencing, formal and informal meetings can all be used to good effect.

Teaching staff

The emphasis on work-based and work-related learning means that teaching
staff need an appropriate awareness, understanding and experience if they
are to meet students’ needs. The organisations involved in the first foundation
degrees have found that, as well as a general awareness of HE and
experience in delivering HE programmes, it helps if staff have recent, relevant
experience in industry. This can mean work in the relevant sector or close
working relationships with employers, professional bodies or Sector Skills
Councils through consultancy or other relevant activities. Other key
experience includes work-based learning at any level, such as NVQs;
developing individual learning agreements for students; and an appreciation
of the local and regional plans outlined in Section 2 above.

Example 13

As part of their research, London College of Printing received a clear
message from employers and their representatives that graduates needed to
‘hit the ground running’. They saw straight away that academic staff needed to
be fully up to date with the needs of their industry. In tandem, a team of staff
was needed that could help students develop enterprise skills and ensure
they were properly prepared for work-based learning.

This meant investing in staff development to bring subject-based staff up to
date. It also meant a number of new staff needed to be recruited straight from
industry. These new staff needed time and help to adjust to academic life and
the learning needs of students. A range of training and development methods
were used such as awaydays and workshop sessions. These involved
experienced educationalists and the newer staff, to ensure an integrated

The design and development of the FdA and the associated materials and
teaching methods has involved significant investment in time and teamwork.
The result has been to create staff teams with individuals drawn from study
support, industry and undergraduate courses.

London College of Printing now offers 12 FdA courses in a diverse range of
subjects including retail, travel and tourism, and print media and publishing.

Key questions for you to consider:

What learning and teaching methods are needed for students to develop the
full range of skills, understanding and knowledge?

What range of methods can be used to give students enough options and fit a
range of student circumstances?

How well integrated are the skills and academic elements?

To what extent are the skills and knowledge developed and applied in a work
Ho far does the programme allow the student to direct and manage their own
learning, reflect on the progress made and adapt their learning plan as

Is their enough support for students?

Who are the right staff and what staff development is needed?

Section 3: Maximising students’

Getting the entry requirements right
The target group
Foundation degrees are designed to both widen and increase participation.
They may be particularly attractive for people who have qualifications other
than A levels, for mature students and for students in employment but these
are not the only possible target audiences. A level students may be attracted
by the ‘earn and learn’ approach offered by PT FDs, or may be aiming at
higher technical or associate professional employment. Some people with
few formal qualifications may be able to demonstrate their potential to
succeed on a foundation degree through their existing knowledge and

Example 14

The Early Years Sector–Endorsed foundation degree is intended for people
who are:
   qualified to NVQ level 3 or equivalent
   in a relevant job
   strongly motivated to achieve senior practitioner level and, for some,
     Qualified Teacher Status.

Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) and
credit for previous study
Where students have evidence of relevant existing skills and knowledge credit
can be given for this, which may shorten the period of time needed to obtain
the fd qualification, and help focus their programme of study specifically on
new learning. Effective APEL and credit awarding systems depend on:

   a proper understanding of the learning outcomes from the foundation
   an accurate understanding of the skills, qualifications and abilities ‘typical’
    students will bring, and the evidence that they can supply to back up their
   an understanding of how the two relate to each other.

Example 15

There are a number of different routes for potential students for the Health
Care foundation degree at Southampton University to join the course. These
include Access courses, BTEC courses, Academic and Vocational A Levels.
Accreditation for prior learning is another accepted route particularly for
mature students.

There are well established APEL and other credit policies at the University of
Southampton with clear criteria offering both generic and specific APEL. The
partnership has developed these more fully to meet the particular needs of
foundation degree students.

Key questions to consider:

What sort of people are you hoping to attract? What educational background
and work experience are they likely to have? How might this overlap with the
learning outcomes and learning programmes for your foundation degree?

What are the range of ways students can demonstrate their potential to study
for your foundation degree?

What level of credit is appropriate for different types of prior experience or

How could the foundation degree programme be adapted to reflect existing
understanding, knowledge and ability that some students might bring?

Getting the programme right
Much of this section will be familiar to those experienced in course design, although
the employment related dimension and the fact the FDs are intermediate level
qualifications may raise issues for those used to the full-time honours environment.

Learning contracts
Once enrolled, students need to understand what they can expect. A learning
contract is a useful way of setting out what has been agreed between the
student and the course provider.

Learning contracts have a number of benefits, including:
  helping students to develop a greater sense of ownership of their studies
   and clarify their learning goals
  helping to clarify the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved

A learning contract typically sets down:
   the learning outcomes or goals
   the methods for meeting these outcomes or goals
   the resources being made available, including for example time off for
    study, library facilities and access to tutors
   how achievement of these objectives will be assessed
   the level of credit being sought and awarded.

The learning contract can then be used to inform the Progress file and
transcript (see below).

Employer contact

Early experience shows that it is important that students are given contact
with employers throughout the course. Some students may not understand
the relevance of some aspects of the course, and continuous contact with
employers gives them a way to address their concerns.

It is generally recognised that assessment can serve different purposes:
    diagnostic, which considers the student’s aptitude and preparedness for
    formative , which assesses the student’s progress and informs their
    summative, which identifies how far they have achieved the learning

Different techniques are used for different purposes and a variety of formal
and informal techniques are likely to be used across an FD course.

Example 16

Assessment for Southampton University’s Health Care foundation degree
includes exams, report writing, a health promotion project and a health care
skills inventory.

The methods of assessment should be set out and agreed when the the
foundation degree is validated.

Assessment of work based learning

Early lessons point to the need to ensure that assessment of work-based
learning is fully integrated into the course and is not seen as a ‘bolt-on’ – it
must be educationally valuable to the student and seen as productive by the
employer. Assessment of work-based learning can distinguish between
assessing the student’s capability (which includes their underpinning
knowledge and understanding, and development of personal skills and
relevant qualities) and their actual performance (which includes the skills and
qualities they demonstrate in practice).

Evidence of capability can be obtained through, for example:
  observation, questioning and viva examination
  traditional examinations
  assignments based on case studies
  projects
  log books and portfolios.

Evidence of performance can be obtained through, for example:
  direct or indirect observation, sometimes with questioning
  simulation or role play
  reports, surveys, drawings etc generated through normal work
  reflective reports
  log books and portfolios
  reports by employers.

The emphasis on work-based learning provides an opportunity to ensure that
providers and employers both take part in the assessment. Employers’
concerns about confidentiality of their products or processes need to be
understood at the start, and it is often useful to agree with the employer in
advance the nature of the work-based assessment, and record it in a learning

The QAA Code of practice (see below) contains a section on assessing
students. It is available on QAAs website:

Example 17

On the Information and Communication Enabling Technologies foundation
Degree in Lincoln, there is an element of self and peer assessment to
encourage students to take increasing responsibility for the learning process
in preparation for their future as independent designers.

Key questions to consider:

Does the framework provide for contact between students and employers
throughout the course?

Is it clear who is assessing what, when, where, how and why?

Are employers involved in the work-based assessment where appropriate?
Are they appropriately trained and qualified?
Is the assessment consistent and appropriate to the level of the award?

Is everyone equipped to carry out the assessments, or is training needed?

Are there appeals procedures and mechanisms to resolve disputes, and are
they clearly spelt out?

Recording achievement
Recording achievement builds on the assessment process and is an
important aspect of the foundation degree. Progress Files are a valuable way
of describing, measuring and recording achievement. They contain two

   a transcript: this is a record of a student’s learning and achievement, and
    helps them to monitor their own progress while they are studying;
   the individual’s personal records of learning, such as progress reviews,
    statements from tutors and CVs.

These two elements provide the cornerstones for Personal Development
Planning, a structured process in which the student reflects on their own
learning, performance and achievement and plans their future development.

Progression to honours degrees
Foundation degrees are a qualification in their own right but a key aim is that
they encourage lifelong learning. Holders of foundation degrees may chose
to progress their learning in a variety of ways and over different timescales,
possibly seeking professional accreditation or further vocational or academic
qualifications. Progression routes to honours degrees need to be established
for those that chose this path, and they are an important feature of every
foundation degree.

Example 18

Students graduating from the Health Care foundation degree at Southampton
have the opportunity to progress to:
   BN (Hons)
   BSc (Hons) in Podiatry
   BA (Hons) in Health and Social Care Management
The honours degree programme in nursing can be completed in two years
and within this period students will also complete a professional qualification
in one of the other branches of nursing.

The current framework requires that foundation degrees should have 240
credits of learning of which 120 will be at the second HE level. Students who
successfully complete a foundation degree will normally be well placed to
progress to the final level of the honours degree programme.

Even so, the balance between academic skills, and practical vocational skills
and assessment of work-based learning in a foundation degree, may mean
that students need a bridging course to strengthen the academic, research
related skills called for in the final level of an honours course.

Example 19

Leeds Metropolitan University plans that students who have successfully
completed the FdSc Health-related Exercise and Fitness will be able to
progress onto either BA (Hons) Leisure and Sport Management or BSc
(Hons) Physical Activity, Exercise and Health, following a short ‘bridging’
activity. The bridging activity is a Research Methods module which will
prepare students for their honours degree project.

Key questions to consider:

What honours degrees do employers in the sector look for? What progression
opportunities need to be set up?

Does the foundation degree need to contribute towards achieving a licence to
practice or another professional requirement? If so, how will it do this?

Do foundation degree graduates have the academic knowledge and
understanding to progress to a relevant honours degree? Will they need a
bridging mechanism?

Will some foundation degree graduates need a top-up in some subject areas?
Section 4: Quality assurance: getting the
process right
The basic principles
All partners have some responsibility for managing quality.

The individual HEI validates the award and therefore has the main
responsibility for its quality and standards - all HEIs have well established
quality assurance procedures. The FE college and other partners have
responsibility for the quality of the learning and teaching on their sites. FE
colleges should also have their own quality assurance processes. Sometimes
FE colleges and other partners will agree to adopt the procedures of the HEI.

The HEI’s procedures may need adapting to suit a consortium approach or
the circumstances of a foundation degree. Whatever arrangements are put in
place, it is vital that they are fully understood and owned by everyone involved
and that everyone sticks to them.

A sound approach to quality assurance fulfils three key purposes:
  it provides information to people involved in any aspect of the design and
   delivery of the foundation degree so they know what standards are
   expected in their programme
  it provides evidence for HEFCE’s and QAA’s monitoring procedures
  it provides reassurance and information to prospective students,
   employers and other ‘end users’.

Example 20

The foundation4success consortium has set out its approach to quality
assurance in Quality Assurance Documentation for the Foundation Degrees

Quality assurance focuses on three distinct levels:
 the consortium (three partner universities)
 the interface between the consortium and the three partner universities
 the interface between the three universities and the foundation degrees
  they offer, within the scope of the consortium (including the procedures for
  assuring the quality of the links with other partners, such as FE colleges
  and employers).
Evidence of Impact
HEI quality assurance arrangements are generally designed to ensure that
academic standards are met and that graduates have achieved the learning
outcomes. In some aspect of HE work such as teachers’ professional
development HEIs have been developing approaches that go beyond their
customary assurance of quality. They seek to gather evidence of the impact
that students’ engagement with the course has had in their workplace.
Developers of employment-based FDs may wish to develop similar

National employers, Sector frameworks and other
national models
Some foundation degrees are designed nationally. The national models and
frameworks are designed by organisations such as national employers,
Sector Skills Councils and awarding bodies. Often there is some flexibility in
content so that there are local variations of a national core model.

Arrangements are then put in place to deliver the foundation degree in
different locations. The Early-Years sector endorsed foundation degree, for
example, is delivered by many different colleges. The sector frameworks are
another example.

The organisation that has designed the foundation degree will want to know
that local arrangements are satisfactory and that the quality is consistent
wherever it is delivered. They may put in place their own quality assurance
arrangements so that they can see there is consistency. These quality
assurance arrangements will be in addition to arrangements put in place
locally by the colleges, universities and employers involved in delivering the
foundation degree locally. Edexcel, for example, has quality assurance
procedures to ensure that all HNDs meet certain minimum standards.

External examiners
External examiners play an important role in any HEI’s quality assurance
process. They are appointed by the HEIs and act as independent and
impartial advisers. They provide institutions with informed comment on:
  the standards set for awarding the qualification
  the levels of performance students achieve
  assessment processes

They also advise on how the standard of the degree compares with those run
elsewhere.. For external examiners involved in foundation degrees, previous
experience with work-based programmes is extremely useful.

More information can be found in the relevant section in QAA’s Code of
practice, available at

QAA Code of practice
The Quality Assurance Agency looks at the quality of provision in universities
and other providers of HE. They do this through audits and reviews at subject
level. In particular, they look at the way the institution manages quality and
standards of provision.

QAA publishes a ‘Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and
standards in higher education’. This code currently contains ten different
sections, each covering a different subject - for example collaborative
provision, external examining, assessment of students, placement learning,
and programme approval, monitoring and review. Each section is structured
into a series of precepts/key issues, and guidance. The QAA checks to see
that the institution’s own quality assurance mechanisms are addressing the
precepts effectively. You can look at the code on QAA’s website at

Example 21

Manchester Metropolitan University has worked with all partners involved in
the foundation degree for some time and the university’s quality assurance
arrangements are well established, comprehensive and rigorous. The quality
systems include:

   regular, recorded course team meetings with student representation
   meetings of the partnership committee
   student surveys
   annual monitoring reviews
   internal moderation and standardisation
   external examiners

Key questions to consider:

What are your organisation’s responsibilities?

What are your organisation’s quality assurance procedures? How do they
work? How are you going to demonstrate that you have fulfilled them?

Who should be appointed as external examiners?
Section 5: Funding and finance
There will be costs associated with development and validation of an FD
course in addition to running costs. Running costs include tuition and
assessment costs and quality assurance arrangements. Students will
generally make some contribution to these costs

Financing partnerships and funding programme
As with any degree, the costs of development are primarily the responsibility
of the partners who will benefit. They are shared amongst them on an agreed
basis. The cost of developing a foundation degree will depend on the
complexity of the partnership, the relative experience of the providers in
developing similar provision, their starting point, and the different economies
of scale open to different sizes of provider. Different validating bodies have
different approaches to charging so validation costs may vary depending on
the validation partner chosen.

The White Paper The future of higher education announced that a further
£30m is being made available to help promote and develop more foundation
degrees up to 2006. Some of this money will support the Foundation Degree
Forward arrangements referred to in sectionX . The Higher Education Funding
Council for England (HEFCE) is responsible for distributing funding to
providers to support course development. Contact HEFCE for further details.
Some development projects are also being undertaken with employers, with
funding support from the Department.

Financing tuition

Funding for delivering foundation degrees is normally provided by HEFCE.
The funding goes directly to HE institutions and, in some circumstances,
further education colleges. HEIs and colleges can then disburse their funds
amongst the partners to help with their costs.


Part-time students have always contributed to the cost of their tuition. Since
1998 full-time students starting higher education have had to contribute
towards their tuition fees. Full-time students may get some or all of their tuition
fees paid, depending on their circumstances. Some part-time students also
get their fees paid for them through their college, depending on their income.

The White Paper The future of higher education announced proposed
changes to the system of student finance and student support. It also
announced plans to introduce bursaries in 2004-5 for people studying for
foundation degrees. There is up to date information on financial support for
students on the DfES website Be alert to
the changes in the student support environment as you plan beyond 2004-05

Employers, of course, may wish to offer their employees help with tuition
Career Development Loans may be appropriate for some students and some
courses. Career Development Loans are deferred repayment bank loans - the
Government pays the interest while you are learning and for up to a month
afterwards. Information can be found on
A range of other help is also explained in the booklet Money to Learn
available on the same website.

Directory of useful contacts
Foundation degree website                           
The DfES resource for information on foundation degrees.

Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA)             
The SSDA website contains information and contact
details for the new Sector Skills Councils.

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) 
QAA promotes the quality of provision in UK higher
education. The site contains good up-to-date information
on the national qualifications framework and the
foundation degree benchmark statement.

UCAS is the UK central organisation which processes
applications for entry to full-time HE courses. The UCAS
site also gives details of current HE qualifications.

Learning and Skills Council                         
The LSC is responsible for funding and planning non-HE
education and training for everyone aged over 16 in

Life long learning                                  
A website with information about learning for adults and
detailed information on how to finance learning

Qualifications and Curriculum Authority             
QCA is a guardian of standards in education and training
in England. It works with others to maintain and develop
the school curriculum and to accredit and monitor
qualifications in schools, colleges and at work.

Regional Development Agencies
Regional Development Agencies have been established to
improve economic development and regeneration;
promote business efficiency, investment and
competitiveness; promote employment; advance
development of application of skill relevant to employment;
and contribute to sustainable development. They can
provide help and advice relevant to the region and, in
some cases, help with funding. There are nine RDAs in
England, as follows.
One North East                                      
North West Development Agency                       
Yorkshire Forward                                   
East Midlands Development Agency                    
Advantage West Midlands                             
East of England Development Agency                  
South East of England Development Agency            
South West of England Regional Development Agency   
London Development Agency                           

Higher Education and Research Opportunities         
HERO is the official gateway to UK universities, colleges
and research organisations.

DfES student support                                
A website for students who want to find out about financial
Higher Education Funding Council for England   
HEFCE distributes funding for higher education in
England. The site includes information on partnerships
including good practice.

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Description: How to develop a foundation degree