Middlesex has joined forces with nine other universities across England in an informal group called the Policy Perspectives Network (PPN). The network’s first paper is published today, urging the government to commit to foundation years (FYs) funding.
Focusing on the uncertainty surrounding the FYs following the 2019 Augar Review, the universities in the PPN argue that FYs provide a unique contribution to higher education.
This includes the delivery of key objectives that align with Government priorities: opening up opportunities for underrepresented students; providing a second chance for study, particularly for under-attaining or mature students; building skills and confidence to progress in higher education; and a route to address skills shortages.
The analysis also points to the importance of FY provision in universities in the light of the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on educational and economic opportunity.
The paper, which pools data from the ten PPN members - Sheffield Hallam, Aston, Essex, Kent, Lincoln, Manchester Metropolitan, Middlesex, Northampton, Portsmouth and Plymouth Universities - has been sent to Universities Minister Michelle Donelan MP with a collective position that removing support for FY students in universities would be short sighted.
“Foundation years provide an important platform for reaching disadvantaged students, building skills and confidence, and responding to local skills shortages” the report concludes. “Current policy uncertainty undermines the capacity of universities to invest and innovate in its foundation year provision. We need to move beyond this, if this type of provision is to provide an important avenue to educational opportunity in future.”
MDX Vice-Chancellor Professor Nic Beech said, “For people who have experienced a year of disrupted provision, Foundation Years are an essential stepping stone into HE”
“Foundation Years allow capable students from underrepresented backgrounds the opportunity to achieve their potential and offer a second chance to students who may have been let down or left behind.
“If policymakers want to see a more diverse student population and widen participation, FY courses are a key route to delivering these outcomes”.
Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said: “The Policy Perspectives Network has been created to provide evidence-based, on-the-ground insight for important higher education policy issues. In this first report, the Network has set out a compelling case for the future of foundation years within the higher education ecosystem.
“Our collective institutional analysis, which includes insights from students and stakeholders, is very clear about the positive impact of foundation years, especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. We now urge the government to look at the data and talk to universities before making its final conclusions later this year.”