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Split in art and design diplomas

The market for pre-degree art and design courses has split into three as colleges boycott efforts to create a unified national system.

Thirty further education institutions have joined a new breakaway body running its own national diplomas in foundation art and design in competition with Business and Technology Education Council courses.

The move follows the collapse of the National Council for Foundation Art and Design whose members were involved in the delivery and validation of foundation art and design programmes.

The council folded last year after the Government asked BTEC to take over the validation work, but a new National Board for Art and Design Foundation Studies has been set up by colleges which want to retain the old arrangements.

The board says it is keen to maintain regional lecturer training and curriculum support built up under the old regime, and is reluctant to give up courses tailored over many years to the needs of students.

There is also widespread mistrust of a third route into degree- level work, provided by the new Advanced General National Vocational Qualifications in art and design, board members claim.

Roy Ainscough, board chairman and chief executive of the East Midlands Further Education Council, said many colleges felt they were having new qualifications "foisted upon them" by Government.

"The feeling is that the GNVQ is still not fully accepted as an entry qualification to higher education or by employers. We also feel that the regional support we can provide makes us more accessible than a national body like BTEC. We are hoping that the arrangements we are putting in place will provide a bridge between the old system and the new," he said.

The board's diploma has so far attracted 1,300 students at its 30 member institutions, compared with more than 8,000 doing a BTEC foundation course and 8,500 on Advanced GNVQ art and design courses.

Tony Collins, the board's national moderator and manager of the School of Art at Lowestoft College, thought the diploma was ideal for "high flying" academic students who were more likely to take A levels than GNVQs.

A BTEC spokesman commented: "We believe we are providing a well-designed and widely respected qualification. Students will have to study the options available and decide what is best in relation to their career plans."

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