Plans for the final phase of the current Government-backed three-year further education expansion were unveiled last week by Sir William Stubbs, chief executive of the FE Funding Council.
Cash incentives may be given to improve staying-on rates and the council would try to attract Training and Enterprise Council funds to areas where improved rates have been identified as a priority.
The renewed stress on school-leaver recruitment came as a surprise to college principals who have seen a recent shift in emphasis towards part-time adult recruitment. Most colleges argue that this is where hope of long-term expansion is most likely.
Sir William told colleges they must get their acts together on adult recruitment if they wanted any extra cash after 1996. The council was considering a new committee to look at widening participation.
"The next thing the Treasury will be looking at is whether you have made inroads into adult recruitment," he said when he addressed the annual meeting in Harrogate of the Association for College Management.