Ms Alexander said she did not believe in solutions centrally imposed by the Executive. But she did say she was keen to strengthen "collaborative approaches" to pay and conditions for FE lecturers, although that did not sound to her audience like an endorsement of national collective bargaining.
The Minister had earlier praised the FEsector for its approach to working in partnership with others, which drew the icy response from Marian Healy, the further and higher education officer of the Educational Institute of Scotland, that "the one partnership that is not working in FE is the partnership with the employee associations".
In other remarks, Ms Alexander said that the two funding councils for FE and HE would remain"for the moment". The Executive would await the report from theparliamentary inquiry into lifelonglearning which is about to get under way.
It is now clear that ministers as well as college unions and management are looking to the enterprise and lifelong learning committee of MSPs to come up with solutions to a host of unresolved issues in the FE sector.
One issue which was flagged up at a political session at the conference is student support. Marilyn Livingstone, an influential Labour member of the lifelong learningcommittee who is a former Fife College lecturer, said she felt the more generous treatment for students had produced too many funding schemes with too many students having to chase too many funding packages.
"We need parity and equity of opportunity," she said.
The enterprise and lifelong learning committee plans a conference in December to discuss the findings of its interim report.