HL Deb 20 June 1988 vol 498 cc590-1WA
Lord Cullen of Ashbourne

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which bodies will be able under Clause 192 of the Education Reform Bill (as amended in Committee) to continue to award United Kingdom degrees.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science (Baroness Hooper)

Clause 192 defines and otherwise provides for the identification of three types of recognised awards which will continue to be conferred:

  1. (a) degrees of bodies authorised to grant degrees by Royal Charter or Act of Parliament.
  2. (b) degrees awarded by institutions authorised by a body within (a) above to award degrees on its behalf.
  3. (c) degrees designated by the Secretary of State for the purposes of the clause.

Category (a) will cover bodies such as the universities and the Council of National Academic Awards (CNAA) as well as, by virtue of the Ecclesiastical Licences Act 1553, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. Category (b) would cover, for example, any polytechnics and colleges authorised by the CNAA to confer degrees on its behalf.

In relation to category (c) the power of designation is intended to have a very narrow application. It is planned, subject to possible further discussion with the Council of the Inns of Court, to cover in this way the degree of barrister, conferred by Call to the Utter Bar, which derives constitutionally from the Crown through the judges to the Inns of Court. Otherwise, it is intended to designate only two existing awards which in the course of the consultations undertaken by the Government at the end of 1987 were identified as requiring specific protection. These are the Mastership in Clinical Biochemistry and the Master of Horticulture. Both are awarded by chartered bodies (the first by the Royal Society of Chemistry in association with the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Pathologists and the Association of Clinical Biologists; and the second by the Royal Horticultural Society), but without a specific provision in their respective charters to make such awards. After taking the advice of Her Majesty's inspectorate, the Government decided that both qualifications were of an appropriate level to their title. Rather than throw any doubt on their status, or ask the bodies who made them to seek an amendment to their charter, it seemed sensible to provide a specific power to cover these awards.

It is not intended to use the power of designation as an alternative means of conferring degree-awarding status. Institutions wishing to offer UK degrees, who are not covered by any of the three categories referred to above, will need to seek such powers in the normal manner by charter or statute. Alternatively, they can apply to have their courses validated by one of the bodies in category (a) so that they lead to one of the latter's degrees. Similarly, any body which under its existing charter does not have an express power to award degrees and wishes to commence doing so should first seek an amendment to its charter. It is not intended to extend the list covered by the third category beyond the awards already mentioned.

Clause 194 provide for the Secretary of State to list in an order all the bodies appearing to him to be recognised within categories (a) and (b) as well as both institutions offering approved courses leading to the award of a degree of a recognised body and the constituent colleges, schools, halls or other institutions of the collegiate universities. By reading these lists together with the list of designated degrees falling within category (c), prospective overseas students and their sponsors, for example, will be able to know exactly which institutions offer bona fide UK degrees or offer approved courses leading to such degrees. Finally, it will be open to a UK-based institution to continue to offer an overseas degree but by virtue of subsection (4) of Clause 192 the onus will be on such institutions to make it clear that the qualification in question is that of an overseas institution.