Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Exam Board's Open Marriage Set to Offer Colleges Greater Independence

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Exam Board's Open Marriage Set to Offer Colleges Greater Independence

Article excerpt

No traditional partner needed for new foundation degree-level qualification. David Matthews writes.

A tie-up between The Open University and an exam board could give further education colleges more freedom to teach higher education without the need to partner with a university.

From next year colleges will be able to teach "white-collar vocational" courses offered by the exam board OCR that can be converted into full Open University degrees with just one year of distance study.

The 21 November announcement comes after Bradford College saw its application for taught degree-awarding powers turned down, a decision that dealt a blow to colleges' hopes of more autonomy over their higher education provision.

From September 2013, OCR will offer qualifications developed jointly with The Open University that are equivalent to a foundation degree - comparable to the first two years of an honours degree - which can be studied full or part time. OCR is part of Cambridge Assessment, an agency of the University of Cambridge.

The new Open University/OCR qualifications, called "Cambridge Technicals", will be offered in subjects such as accounting, information technology and, possibly, engineering. They can be turned into undergraduate degrees via further study through The Open University.

Specifics of the courses to be offered have yet to be confirmed as they are under development by Open University academics and OCR.

Awarding bodies such as Edexcel already allow colleges to offer higher- level qualifications without the need for a university partner, after which students can study for a year at a university to top up their qualification to a full degree.

However, OCR hopes that the new qualification will prove easier to roll out for colleges than existing foundation degrees because students will be able to convert it to a full degree anywhere in the country. …

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