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Business high-flyer

Colleges are always being urged to act more like businesses. And yet when Blackburn College follows this advice and launches a slightly fatuous publicity stunt, all people do is complain! So howls of outrage were heard last week when the college said it would pay pound;5,000 compensation to any student who failed their A-levels. Encouraging failure! Waste of taxpayers' money!

The college says it will not enter any students who have not worked hard - and with a 99 per cent pass rate already, plus some extra vigiliance now it has put itself in the spotlight, it is highly unlikely that it will ever have to pay out.

It is the Ryanair approach to marketing: every time its CEO Michael O'Leary comes out with some outrageous plan to charge people for going to the loo or whatever, the message that gets across is that Ryanair is cheap. The college has won acres of publicity promoting the idea that they are unusually confident that their students will succeed. And it is all for free - the TaxPayers' Alliance should stop whingeing and applaud.

Sugar not so sweet

Lord Sugar can't resist taking digs at FE colleges. First, The Apprentice star used his BBC show to say they were for "dummkopfs". Now he thinks whatever funding is left should be used as incentives for employers to hire apprentices, "instead of blowing it on these so-called further education facilities", as he told a Lords debate last week.

FErret has nothing against incentives for employers, but does Lord Sugar realise that companies are already getting training which costs thousands for free? So if you add a bung to employers on to apprenticeships, it just means you can afford less training overall.

Still, on one subject the man is talking sense: "Cutting funding for training would be a repetition of the mistakes during the last recession." Amen.

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