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No longer the stagehand

"Knowledge transfer" isn't an expression heard often in on the corridors of the average further education college for the simple reason that it is universities which have traditionally been seen as the only organisations worthy of such highbrow activities.

With the increasingly utilitarian view in Westminster of what FE is all about, universities have found it much easier to get funding for sharing their expertise with the world of business.

More than 200 knowledge transfer partnerships exist between universities and employers around the country, involving a projects that include both sides offering consultancy and support to the other. By comparison, just 37 such partnerships exist in FE involving activities that include colleges updating awareness of the requirements of business and businesses learning from colleges about how best to develop their staff.

The Sainsbury review (see page 3) has come as a breath of fresh air to those in industry who recognise the unique position colleges are in particularly at levels 3 and 4 to increase productivity.

It could be argued that work which benefits the bottom line of businesses should be financed by them not the taxpayer. No such argument has been made about the university sector, which continues to enjoy a special position as the prima donna of the education system while FE is left as the overlooked stage-hand.

Maximising FE's impact on the economy and creating the "demand led" system to which policymakers aspire will need a strategic approach that goes further than looking at what happens between lecturer and student. Knowledge transfer is part of that approach and it belongs in colleges as much as it belongs elsewhere.

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