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University of Portsmouth lays the foundation for a highly skilled workforce in Britain 2020

The University of Portsmouth this week opened a new facility to help people in work obtain university Foundation degrees without having to give up their jobs - a crucial step in making sure the United Kingdom is a major player in the global economy of 2020*.

The new facility is called Foundation Direct and it will help men and women in the public and private sector workforce to study for their university degree by using an innovative blend of work-based learning integrated within academically challenging programmes. This not only provides significant career development benefits for the individual, but also for their employers by ensuring that their workforce is regularly improving and expanding its set of technical and professional skills so the UK can better compete in the international marketplace.

Foundation Direct has been set up as a Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) with £4.5m funding from The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). It is one of only two CETL status facilities at the University of Portsmouth, positioning Foundation Direct in an elite group of world class higher education providers in a specialised field of knowledge and expertise.

Foundation degrees were introduced in the UK in 2001 - the first new higher education qualification in 25 years. The concept of being able to use work-based learning and industry experience as part of a university degree programme that has career relevance has been an outstanding success. In 2007, there are 61,000 students enrolled in more than 2000 Foundation degree courses in the UK with another 700 degree programmes in development.

Foundation Direct is located in the University Library in the City campus. It will offer a comprehensive range of services for students, their employers and mentors. This includes: a physical and virtual centre to provide a blend of campus-based and e-learning support to meet the needs of the Foundation degree students, tutors/advisors offering a mixture of generic and subject specific guidance for on-campus and distance learners, career management skills tailored to the needs of foundation degree students, Professional Development Planning (PDP), progress reporting, professional skills development and career and progression planning, and support for mentors through individual consultation, reference material and dedicated web-based resources.

Foundation Direct was officially opened by Professor Derek Longhurst, Chief Executive of Foundation Degree Forward - the lead organisation committed to engaging employers in Foundation degree development and working in partnership with educational institutions and other organisations to support the development of high-quality Foundation degrees that fulfil the needs of UK businesses and students.

Professor Longhurst said: "The Leitch Review of Skills indicated the scale of the challenge facing higher education over the next decade and the level of support that will be needed for workforce development, higher level skills and lifelong learning. In this context, the University of Portsmouth can be justifiably proud that it has placed itself in the vanguard of this development through the creation of the first CETL dedicated to excellence in Foundation Degree practice."

The University of Portsmouth's Frank Lyons, Director of Foundation Direct, said: “Foundation degrees are changing the shape of Universities, the way students learn and Foundation Direct is here to support these changes both in Portsmouth and nationwide.”

* The Government commissioned 2006 Leitch Review of Skills - 'Prosperity for all in the global economy - World Class Skills' - presented a compelling vision for the UK. It shows that the UK must urgently raise achievements at all levels of skills and recommends that it commit to becoming a world leader in skills by 2020, benchmarked against the upper quartile of the OECD. The report said this means doubling attainment at most levels of skill with the responsibility for achieving ambitions to be shared between Government, employers and individuals.

The report can be downloaded from the Treasury Website:

For more information on the University of Portsmouth's Foundation Direct:

Rajiv Maharaj | alfa
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