Foundation Years under threat in Wales


As previously advised, the FYN executive will be submitting a response to the Welsh Government Consultation Document entitled ‘Support for foundation years’, released on 3rd March 2016.

Below is a link to the draft response, including in-text queries/comments in bold italics.  Our thanks to those members who have already fed in their ideas and evidence (please note, in some circumstances, we’ve made specific comments requesting response/assent directly from you).

We would now welcome members’ feedback on the attached draft document **by Tuesday 17th May** at the latest.

We would particularly welcome:
1. Student quotes/evidence in support of the benefits of the FY model (including from Welsh students in English HEIs);
2. Any references to quantitative or other data and/or internal reviews (like those referenced at Durham, Loughborough, Sheffield) which have indicated the effectiveness of FY provision over other alternatives (BTEC, Access to HE Diploma etc.);
3. Links to individual institutional websites which further support the overall thrust of the argument outlined in the attached, including that FYs are the most effective (and, we suggest, most cost effective) way for certain groups of students (e.g. those offering non-standard entry qualifications) to access a successful HE degree pathway.

Best wishes, FYN Exec.


Orignal post:

On 3rd March 2016 the Welsh Government issued a Consultation Document entitled ‘Support for foundation years’, inviting comment on four alternative policy options in relation to the continuation, or otherwise, of fee and/or maintenance support for Welsh domiciled students studying the foundation year of undergraduate degree courses in the HE sector. Get the full text HERE.

The document is framed very largely in financial terms, essentially arguing that it is cheaper for students and for the Welsh Government alike to channel all potential FY students (including students on ‘conversion courses’) into FHEQ level 3 provision. The document displays an extremely limited understanding of the nature and diversity of FY provision across the sector, and of the qualitative differences between FY provision (including in terms of progression and achievement statistics) and level 3 provision in non-HE educational settings.

Adoption of any of the proposed alternatives, other than the ‘do nothing’ option, will inevitably have a very detrimental effect on significant amounts of FY provision in Wales, and could represent the ‘thin end of the wedge’ for FY provision in other parts of the UK if this lead to similar approaches being adopted elsewhere.

The Foundation Year Network Executive takes this threat extremely seriously and will be submitting a response to the consultation in advance of the deadline of 26th May 2016. We want to involve the wider membership in this response and, where appropriate, the voice of current and former FY students.

Since the consultation paper explicitly refers to Welsh domiciled students studying FYs in England, and references Loughborough’s website, we feel it is entirely legitimate that the network as a whole responds, rather than confining our response to Welsh-based institutions. It would nevertheless be particularly helpful to hear from members working in or with specific knowledge of the Welsh context.

We would also encourage you to contact any other relevant organisations you may have contacts with who might usefully submit a response. We are already in contact with the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL) and would welcome suggestions as to other organisations to brief, particularly if you have specific contacts yourself (e.g. FACE etc.).

Initial timeframes and a call for inputs are outlined below.

  • Initial thoughts and offers/suggestions for supporting evidence are invited from members, to be emailed to Willy Kitchen by Monday 4th April(CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT);
  • An initial draft response will be considered by the FYN Executive Committee at a meeting on 11th April, following which a revised version will be uploaded to the FYN website for further comment from members (deadlines to be confirmed);
  • A final response from the executive will be submitted no later than Wednesday 25th May 2016.

Initial comments are invited in response to the following two questions asked in the consultation:

We have outlined a series of concerns regarding foundation year provision, principally that it represents poor value for money and does not obviously provide any benefit to the student when compared to the available alternative routes to higher education. Do you agree with this analysis? Why?

What do you think the impact on widening access will be if the Welsh Ministers were to cease support for these courses? Do you think any particular groups would be disadvantaged by this policy? What are the characteristics of the people taking these courses?

Comments supported by a relevant evidence base are particularly welcome including:

  • comparisons between the on-degree achievements of FY students and students entering with non-HE level 3 or equivalent qualifications;
  • qualitative and quantitative data capturing the FY ‘student voice’;
  • evidence for the increasing paucity of alternative provision of an appropriate level and quality outside the HE sector.

Context specific evidence from Wales will inevitably hold considerably more weight in this area. Thanks in advance for your assistance with this important piece of work. Willy Kitchen On behalf of the FYN Executive Committee (Contact Willy);

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