Foundation degrees growing fast, despite the recession

Enrolment on Foundation degree courses has grown strongly over the last two years, figures from fdf (Foundation Degree Forward), a national body that supports the development and validation of high quality Foundation degrees, have revealed.  In the face of economic uncertainty, the total Foundation degree intake has grown by 40% – from 71,915 in 07/08 to 99,740 to date in 09/10. 

This growing interest in Foundation degrees comes despite a downward trend in overall spending on employee training.  According to research from the Chartered Institute for Personal Development, 32% of businesses have cut training budgets in response to recessionary pressures[i].

Commenting on the figures, Professor Derek Longhurst, fdf Chief Executive: “These figures highlight the results of a lot of hard work, in partnership with organisations such as the British Chambers of Commerce, to ensure that the development of work-based higher level skills training is driven by the needs of employers and students. We are now within touching distance of meeting our ambition for 100,000 Foundation degree students by 2010. ”

Adam Marshall, Director of Policy and External Affairs, at the British Chambers of Commerce, which works with fdf to ensure that Foundation degrees meet the needs of smaller companies, said: “Foundation degrees are a core part of the Government’s skills strategy and, in that context, it is very encouraging to see enrolment growing so strongly, even against a backdrop of recession and pressure on training budgets.  I am delighted that the Chambers have been able to play a role in delivering that growth.”

The focus on courses that strengthen highly sought-after skills in leadership and management has been particularly well received by students.  Alison Etherington, an Arrears Advisor at Darlington Building Society, completed a Foundation degree in Leadership & Management in June 2009.

She said: “I had been keen to enrol on a business degree for some time.  I saw it as the ideal way to both formalise the experience I had gathered in the job and gain new skills and insights.  I felt this qualification would ultimately be good for my career and my employer by making me a more rounded and effective employee.”

Equally, course delivery designed to fit around both work and family commitments is highlighted by students as a clear benefit of Foundation degrees.  Alison said: “Every aspect of the course had been carefully thought through, from the subject matter to the way it is delivered.  For me, it has been an incredibly valuable experience, and one that has not impacted on my work or family life in any way.”

Finally, from both the employer and employee point of view, a focus on encouraging students to apply new skills immediately reaps instant rewards.  Barry Vineall, Business Development Manager at aerospace engineering specialist AF Aerospace, is currently studying for a Foundation degree, also in Leadership & Management.  He said: “Already I am much more willing to innovate and better at it. 

“I know how to research opportunities more thoroughly and, vitally, assess the outcomes and make changes if necessary, rather than simply ploughing on and hoping for the best. For instance, I decided to look at potential new markets like oil, gas and mining. There is no doubt in my mind that my new understanding of issues like product life cycles, combined with my technical know-how has been a massive help, and we now have a foot in the door in each of those markets.”

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