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The Engineering subject centre within the Higher Education Academy has co-operated in the production of a report on foundation degrees in engineering. The report which was produced in conjunction with fdf, Foundation Degree Forward, sought to survey the current provision of foundation degrees in the sector. Their detailed findings can be accessed by viewing the full report (Adobe PDF file) on

A summary of their findings is as follows;

  • There has been considerable growth in the provision.
  • The total number of courses at the surveyed institutions stands at 120, with 34 further courses planned.
  • A substantial number (approx 35%) are part time or distance learning, with only 50% being offered as full time only.
  • Reliable data regarding entry routes is not readily available, but indications are that substantial numbers have come from employment, with BTEC National Diplomas being the predominant entry qualification.
  • 58 out of the 78 institutions surveyed were FE colleges.
  • There is a good spread of courses across the disciplines, with most areas catered for. However, chemical and civil engineering have very few courses.
  • The survey’s questions regarding work-based learning were not comprehensively answered, as many institutions did not provide any data. No clear conclusions were reached.
  • There were 52 collaborating partners listed in the report, ranging from major multinationals to local SMEs.
  • The report contains some data on progression, but the main thrust of this is that most honours degree progression routes involve post-92 universities. It is thought by the authors that this is due to the non-involvement of pre-92 universities in vocational education.
  • Some of the growth in student numbers on FDs is due to conversion of HND/HNC courses to FDs. HESA figures suggest that if these numbers are correlated, the growth is matched almost exactly by a decline in HND/HNC numbers.
  • The advent of FDs appears to be contributing to the widening of participation in degree courses, but this may be as a result of (10).

Implications for Materials courses

One finding is that some of the provision is tailored to specific local or national need. This may be an area for potential providers of Materials courses. For example, those who are currently offering BTEC Nationals in Materials-related subjects in response to local demand might wish to extend their provision into higher level courses in conjunction with an FE or HE institution who have degree awarding powers.

One of the big attractions of FDs is that they can be studied locally, at much lower cost to students and/or parents, thus it is probably unlikely that an FD which requires a wide geographic catchment area to fill the course would be able to market it successfully. In particular, part time courses depend almost entirely on local demand. However, distance learning could provide a solution to this.

he report confirms that work-based learning for full-time students still appears to present problems.




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