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Answer with care to avoid use of the M-word

The funding council's attempt to define whether FE provision is "adequate and efficient" will not be straightforward, it accepts. The issue will be approached not in absolute terms but to measure "relative" adequacy and efficiency in each regional grouping of colleges, which will be aligned with the 23 areas of the local enterprise companies.

Anne Grindley, the funding council's deputy director strategy, commented:

"If we were to go for fully adequate provision, Scotland couldn't afford it. If we wanted provision to be entirely efficient, we might go for just one college for the whole of Scotland - or a virtual college."

The council's report has set out the criteria for judging adequacy:

* How far is the college from its students or potential students?

* Is there good physcal access?

* How wide-ranging are courses and qualifications?

* Are there flexible ways of study and accreditation?

* How good is the provision?

* How successful are colleges in getting their students into jobs or further learning?

* Do colleges listen to students and employers?

* How alert are they to the labour market?

* Are there any signs of action to target disadvantaged areas?

* What condition are the buildings in?

The criteria for deciding on efficiency are:

* How extensively do colleges work together with others to make sure they are cost-effective?

* Do unit costs compare well with the FE average?

* Is financial health good?

* Have colleges taken on board the messages from the funding council's management review?

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