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Agreeing to differ

Readers will be puzzled by David Caldwell's tirade against criticism of the Universities Scotland campaign for extra funding (TESS, last week).

Of course colleges and universities share a mission to serve better Scotland's students and economy. But does that put us beyond any comment or debate when there is a difference of view or interest?

Ministers have promised to consider carefully support for lifelong learning in colleges and universities during the forthcoming spending review. We need to hold them to their word on this not just for continuing investment for immediate improvements, but for the longer term. The spending review this year will decide on the spending plans for 2006-07 and 2007-08, but the issues stretch well beyond.

Many Scots are under the impression that the "big issue" is the potentially adverse impact on Scotland of changes planned for England in the period 2006-2010 and, in particular, the planned introduction of variable ("top-up") fees.

Some components such as funding for research are exclusive to universities.

Student finance, however, is a shared interest of both sectors, and foundation degrees (the main component of expansion planned in England) correspond more closely to higher education provision in colleges.

I agree with David Caldwell that there is no future in tit-for-tat rebuttal. If that means no spats in the media, and no disparagement of colleges by universities, so much the better.

Tom Kelly Chief executive Association of Scottish Colleges

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