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Fresh hope for FE;Opinion

The door has finally closed on further education's sorry saga with the election of a new board for the Association of Colleges this week. The era of Roger Ward, the disgraced chief executive, is over.

The college leaders have spoken, and the best-respected members of the old guard allied to newcomers who challenged Ward's leadership were victorious, as the voting figures in FE Focus (page 33) demonstrate.

It is a good vote - for both continuity and change - at a time when new Labour is calling for collaboration not competition, and for stronger links between schools, colleges, universities and business.

A pity, then, that on the very day the new era dawns, the Serious Fraud Office should go into Halton College following allegations of the misuse of millions of pounds of public money. A pity, but also an indicator that the battle to clean up FE is not yet over. The question of governance - who runs colleges and what powers their boards should have - is now under government review. If colleges fail to put their house in order, they could be stripped of their independence. If that happens, the AOC board, despite the high hopes vested in it, might find itself redundant.

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