Students cheated by second-rate degrees

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The Independent Online

Students are being ripped off by universities running arm's-length degree courses, according to the leader of academics at Britain's "old" universities.

David Triesman, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, attacked standards in some "franchise" courses run under licence in colleges of further education.

He called on academics to tighten controls on courses being run outside universities, and warned that lecturers would boycott those which failed to come up to scratch.

As many as one in 10 higher education courses are run in further education colleges, many under franchise deals with local universities which validate students' work and award qualifications. Some colleges teach complete degrees.

In a speech to the union's conference on Thursday, Mr Triesman will tell lecturers that the standards of many courses are "in serious doubt".

He claimed that some courses were taught by staff with no research background, in colleges with inadequate facilities. "Students are sold the idea that they will be doing something that will be a genuine equivalent of the same course they would get if they took it in the university which validates it, but it is just not comparable," he said.

Mr Triesman said his union, which represents staff in such universities as Cambridge, Oxford and Manchester, did not oppose the principle of setting up new courses in colleges, but warned that academics would "blow the whistle" on courses that were not up to traditional university standards.