Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Degree awarding powers – what does it mean for Norland?

In March 2019, Norland College was granted taught degree awarding powers by the Privy Council. This announcement is a major step towards Norland’s ambition to become the first specialist early years university in the world. Mandy Donaldson, Vice Principal, Head of Quality and Standards and Registrar, explains what this decision means for the College. 

In order to answer that question, I have to first explain to you how we have been teaching degrees up until now. Only institutions with a Royal Charter or powers granted to them by Order of the Privy Council are allowed, by law, to award degrees. Our degree – the BA (Hons) in Early Years Development and Learning is actually awarded by the University of Gloucestershire. We wrote the degree, we deliver it at Norland and you can’t get this particular degree anywhere else. However, because we didn’t have the Order or a Royal Charter, we needed to work with an institution with the powers to award degrees, so that our graduates would have a recognised and valid higher education qualification. Up until fairly recently, there was no chance of us ever being allowed to award our own degrees because we were too small. It used to be that you had to have over 1,000 students to be able to do so. However, the law has now changed and we therefore applied in 2017 to be granted the Privy Council Order.  
"Norland can now match its unparalleled reputation in the field of early years with the privilege and responsibilities of taught degree-awarding powers"
The application and assessment process was arduous and rigorous. Dr Janet Rose, Principal of Norland and I wrote a critical self-assessment to explain how we met the required standards. Once this was accepted, the College underwent a 12-month scrutiny of all aspects of its work; assessors from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) observed many meetings in the College, checked our data related to retention and achievement of students, scrutinised the governance and management of the College and held meetings with students, Directors, academic staff, support staff, the strategic leadership team, our External Examiner and the University of Gloucestershire. 

They assessed us against a set of criteria and found that our processes are sound, our governance and management is secure, our teaching enables students to learn and succeed and our students achieve well. In short, they concluded that academic standards and the quality of student learning experiences are safe in our hands. And the rest, as they say, is history… we received the Order from the Privy Council on 14th March 2019 and can now award our own degrees.

This is a moment in time for Norland. Since 1892, we have been training students to the highest standards, so that they can provide the very best care, learning and love for the children and families with whom they work. Our Diploma is world-renowned and carries with it the highest reputation, enabling our graduates to work with wonderful families all over the world. We feel that the degree should carry the same reputation as the Diploma, helping our graduates to stand out from amongst the crowd. With the “Norland” name attached to the degree, we will achieve the same reputation for excellence with our degree as with our Diploma. In the short-term, the degree itself will not change; it has always given our students and graduates a solid base of knowledge and skills with which to become world-leading early years practitioners. Over time, we will review and revise the degree and the diploma so that they maintain currency and continue to meet changing societal needs. 

Norland’s current mission shows considerable historical continuity with the earliest objectives of the College. Emily Ward pioneered the professionalisation of early years education and care, recognising the need for babies’ and young children’s ‘educare’ to be elevated to a skilled profession that requires expert and high-quality education and training. Mrs Ward’s 1892 vision is now supported by the research evidence, which demonstrates how high quality early education and childcare have positive long-term effects on children’s later learning and achievements. 

The strong correlation between quality of provision and level of qualification of the staff has led to the rise of early years education degree courses and significant government investment. The government’s 2012 independent review of early education and childcare qualifications (Nutbrown review) emphasised the impact of a graduate workforce on child development and the need for rigorous qualifications to ensure a competent and confident workforce. 

Norland can now match its unparalleled reputation in the field of early years with the privilege and responsibilities of taught degree-awarding powers. We are the first higher education institution in the world to cater exclusively for this niche market and taught degree-awarding powers ensures we remain at the forefront of pioneering higher education provision for early years practitioners. Most importantly, the powers will help elevate the status of professionals working with babies and young children and underline the importance of the early years in the whole education process. 

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